President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. must live up to what he said during the elections on how he supports the decriminalization of abortion, a group of women's rights organizations said Monday.
Following a seismic ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that voided the American women's constitutional right to terminate pregnancies, the Philippines must do what it can to cushion the backslide's impact and protect the health and lives of Filipino women, the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN) said.
The group reminded the president of his conditional pro-abortion stance during the elections, urging him to prove his supposed commitment to women's rights and gender equality.
“He made a pronouncement, and it’s up to him to make his pronouncement a reality," said PINSAN's spokesperson, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla.
In predominantly Catholic Philippines, whose Reproductive Health Law barely made a dent a decade after it was passed, abortion is completely prohibited in the country, with no exceptions even for pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest.
Still, this has not stopped pregnancies from getting terminated and has only endangered the lives of women, as every year, around 1,000 Filipinos die due to the lack of access to safe abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an American sexual health and reproductive rights advocacy group.
The landmark 1973 "Roe v. Wade" had resulted in changes of laws around abortion across the world and its recent overturning would likewise embolden "already regressive thinking around women’s bodies and rights", advocates told reportr last week.
“I think for very severe cases like you said, the most, the majority are the rape victims, I think that if it can be shown that they were raped and it was not consensual sex that got them pregnant, then they should have the choice to abort or not. The other is incest perhaps,” then-presidential candidate Marcos had said in January during an interview with host Boy Abunda.
“I cannot argue theology, all I argue is the statistics you have given me…. How many women die every day? We want to save the lives of people. We want to save the lives of women," he said.
"As a public administrator and a public servant, what you are looking to is to avoid all these tragedies,” he added, noting that he subscribes to the notion that women must be given the choice to decide over their own bodies.
The country's restrictive abortion law is causing Filipinos women unnecessary harm and preventable deaths and injuries, the group said, noting this doesn't just affect women who induce abortion.
As a result of the stigma, women suffering from naturally-occurring pregnancy complications such as spontaneous abortions or miscarriages, intrauterine fetal demise, and incomplete abortion are denied access to even legal therapeutic abortions and post-abortion care, the group added.
“We know why there is a need to decriminalize abortion. We know why our current laws on abortion lead to unnecessary harm and preventable deaths and injuries. With his statement, the President seems to also understand the grave situation that abortion seekers face in the country. But would this understanding also translate into action?" Jihan Jacob, Senior Legal Adviser for Asia of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said.
“We, at PINSAN, will continue to demand for the decriminalization of abortion as we believe that it is an essential step towards the realization of women’s rights and gender equality, bodily autonomy, and the achievement of reproductive justice,” said Marevic Parcon, Executive Director of Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights.