Women in the Philippines are trapped in an unbearable dilemma: the Catholic Church, whose influence over the country is strong, prohibits all forms of contraception, but extreme poverty prohibits large families. As a result, the Philippines has a very high abortion rate: 20-30 out of every 1,000 women of childbearing age have had an abortion, despite its illegal status. Filipino women, in an effort to keep their abortions secret, use crude methods, such as inserting sharp objects into the uterus or drinking toxic chemicals. The problem is so severe that illegal abortion is now the fourth leading cause of death among Filipino women. The Alan Guttmacher Institute shows that the primary factor determining a country’s abortion rate is not the legal status of the procedure but the rate at which women experience unintended pregnancies. With no access to contraception, Filipino women are then forced into unsafe illegal abortions. The death rate associated with abortion is hundreds of times higher in developing nations where abortion is often illegal. In Latin America, the abortion mortality rate is 119 deaths per 100,000 abortions, compared to just .02-1.2 deaths per 100,000 abortions in developed nations. The Philippines is also facing a high population growth rate that, if it is not stopped, would double the small nation’s population in the next 35 years. Former President Joseph Estrada saw this, coupled with the high abortion mortality rate, as a reason to defy the long-endured Catholic Church. The church’s anger at his decision to make contraceptives available was a major factor in his forceful oust from power in January of this year.
For more information on the Catholic Church and its repressive policies and influence worldwide, visit Catholics for a Free Choice and their See Change” Campaign.