[JURIST] The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) [advocacy website] on Monday criticized [report, PDF; press release] the abortion [JURIST news archive] laws of the Philippines as a “human rights crisis,” resulting in the death of thousands of women annually. In a report, “Forsaken Lives,” the reproductive rights group characterizes the Philippines’s complete ban on abortion as a violation of women’s human rights by denying them access to safe and legal abortions. According to the CRR’s findings, 560,000 Filipino women undergo illegal abortions every year, posing great dangers to their health. The group found that most of these abortions are conducted in crude and painful ways, resulting in complications in 90,000 women and causing 1,000 deaths every year. The CRR criticizes the stigma the ban has created around women who have sought to terminate their pregnancies, causing many to refrain from seeking medical attention following complications. The group argues the complete ban on abortion is due to the influence of the Catholic Church [religious website] in the country, to which 80 percent of Filipinos belong. The CRR explained:
The Catholic hierarchy plays a completely inappropriate role opposing any changes to existing laws on abortion and family planning and, as we see from this important report, women die as a result. In our work in the Philippines, we have seen and heard from Catholics who reject the influence of the bishops and support access to more comprehensive reproductive health services. It’s time to break the silence around abortion in the Philippines and for the human rights community to put pressure on the government to decriminalize abortion and immediately improve the medical care that women receive.
CRR also called for the Philippine Congress [official website] to change the nation’s laws to allow women to have abortions in certain circumstances, such as for the mother’s health, fetal impairment and in cases of rape or incest. Currently, the Philippines is one of the few countries to outlaw abortion in all situations without exception.
Other human rights groups have criticized the restrictive abortion laws in Catholic-majority countries. In January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] argued that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws increase health risks to women [JURIST report] and expose them to deliberate misinformation about abortion procedures. Ireland’s current legislation prohibits abortion for any reason except when the mother’s life is threatened and carries a potential sentence of life imprisonment. The report states that Ireland’s restrictive laws create a heavy financial and emotional burden on women who are forced to find alternatives either secretly or abroad. In July 2009, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Nicaragua to end its total ban on abortions [JURIST report], saying that the lack of an exception for the mother’s health has caused numerous deaths. AI also called for the country to eliminate severe criminal punishments for those who seek or perform abortions, saying that the penalties would often prevent women from receiving even non-abortion medical care. It also called for an exception allowing abortions in the cases of rape or incest. The group said that ban forces obstetricians to choose between medically necessary procedures and the law, and that it violates the UN Convention Against Torture, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [texts] and other treaties signed by the country.