A Century Old “Heartbeat Bill” In The Philippines

Earlier this May, the US signed a law called the “Heartbeat Bill” which according to news, seeks to make abortion illegal as soon as the fetus’ heartbeat is detectable. In most cases, this is at the six-week mark of a pregnancy – before many women even know they are pregnant. This law has no exceptions for rape or incest.

Here in the Philippines there are facts on abortion you should know about that are similar to “Heartbeat Bill”.

Abortion is considered illegal in the Philippines. The criminal provisions on abortion do not contain any exceptions allowing the termination of a fetus, including to save the life of the pregnant woman or to protect her health. For over a century, the criminalization of abortion has not prevented this. But instead has made the procedure unsafe and potentially deadly for over half a million women each year who try to terminate their pregnancies.

Physicians and midwives who perform abortion with the consents of a pregnant woman may face up to six years jail time. This criminal punishment is supplemented by separate laws that prescribe sanctions for a range of medical professionals and health doctors. If medical professionals and health doctors are caught performing abortion or dispensing abortifacient, their license can be revoked. Women who undergo abortion for any reason may be punished by imprisonment for two to six years.

Due to the lack of access to safe abortion, Filipino women have a high risk of engaging through unsafe abortion or continuation of high-risk pregnancies. Poor women are vulnerable to unsafe abortion and its complications as they face obstructions in obtaining effective means of family planning.

Because of the little knowledge about abortion, Filipino women who opt for unsafe abortion face stigma. Healthcare workers are unwilling to provide care or only treat women after threatening to report them to police, or harassing women verbally, physically or delaying care.

Even having these facts, there is a group in the Philippines who supports women with their reproductive decisions. Pro-Choice contends that choosing abortion is a woman’s right that should not be limited by governmental or religious authority, and which outweighs any right claimed for an embryo or fetus.

The result of criminal abortion laws in the Philippines and the discriminatory environment left women without a means to control their fertility, exposed to unsafe abortion practices and made vulnerable to abuse in the health system.

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