Abortion in the Philippines

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Abortion in the Philippines is mostly illegal, or banned by law.[1]


Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution says, in part, "Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception."

The act is criminalized by Philippine law. Articles 256, 258 and 259 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines mandate imprisonment for women who undergo abortion, as well as for any person who assists in the procedure. Article 258 further imposes a higher prison term on the woman or her parents if the abortion is undertaken "in order to conceal [the woman's] dishonor".

There is no law in the Philippines that expressly authorizes abortions in order to save the woman's life; and the general provisions which do penalize abortion make no qualifications if the woman's life is endangered. It may be argued that an abortion to save the mother's life could be classified as a justifying circumstance (duress as opposed to self-defense) that would bar criminal prosecution under the Revised Penal Code. However, this has yet to be adjudicated by the Philippine Supreme Court.

Proposals to liberalize Philippine abortion laws have been opposed by the Catholic Church, and its opposition has considerable influence in the predominantly Catholic country. However, the constitutionality of abortion restrictions has yet to be challenged before the Philippine Supreme Court.

The constitutional provision that "[The State] shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception" was crafted by the Constitutional Commission which drafted the charter with the intention of providing for constitutional protection of the abortion ban, although the enactment of a more definitive provision sanctioning the ban was not successful. The provision is enumerated among several state policies, which are generally regarded in law as unenforceable in the absence of implementing legislation. The 1987 Constitution also contains several other provisions enumerating various state policies.[note 1] Whether these provisions may, by themselves, be the source of enforceable rights without implementing legislation has been the subject of considerable debate in the legal sphere and within the Supreme Court.[note 2]

An analysis by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs concluded that although the Revised Penal Code does not list specific exceptions to the general prohibition on abortion, under the general criminal law principles of necessity as set forth in article 11(4) of the Code, an abortion may be legally performed to save the pregnant woman's life.[2]

Abortion incidence[edit]

One 1997 study estimated that, despite legal restrictions, in 1994 there were 400,000 abortions performed illegally in the Philippines and 80,000 hospitalizations of women for abortion-related complications;[3] It was reported in 2005 that official estimates then ranged from 400,000 to 500,000 and rising, and that the World Health Organization estimate was 800,000. Seventy percent of unwanted pregnancies in the Philippines end in abortion, according to the WHO. Approximately 4 in 5 abortions in the Philippines are for economic reasons, often where a woman already has several children and cannot care for another.[4]

While some doctors secretly perform abortions in clinics, the 2,000 to 5,000 peso (US$37 to US$93) fee is too high for many Filipinos, so they instead buy abortifacients on the black market, e.g. from vendors near churches, sari-sari stores and bakeries.[4] Two-thirds of Filipino women who have abortions attempt to self-induce or seek solutions from those who practice folk medicine.[5] One hundred thousand people end up in the hospital every year due to unsafe abortions, according to the Department of Health,[4] and 12% of all maternal deaths in 1994 were due to unsafe abortion. Some hospitals refuse to treat complications of unsafe abortion, or operate without anesthesia, as punishment for the patients.[4] The Department of Health has created a program to address the complications of unsafe abortion: Prevention and Management of Abortion and Its Complications.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These provisions include, e.g., the affirmation of labor "as a primary social economic force" (Section 14, Article II); the equal protection of "the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception" (Section 12, Article II); the "Filipino family as the foundation of the nation" (Article XV, Section 1); the recognition of Filipino as "the national language of the Philippines" (Section 6, Article XVI), and even a requirement that "all educational institutions shall undertake regular sports activities throughout the country in cooperation with athletic clubs and other sectors" (Section 19.1, Article XIV).
  2. ^ The Court, for example, has ruled that a provision requiring that the State "guarantee equal access to opportunities to public service" could not be enforced without implementing legislation, and thus could not bar the disallowance of so-called "nuisance candidates" in presidential elections. However, in another case the Court held that a provision requiring that the State "protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology" did not require implementing legislation to become the source of operative rights. Any legal challenge to abortion restrictions in the Philippines would necessarily have to evaluate the legal force given to Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.


  1. ^ The Revised Penal Code of the Philippines : Book Two Archived 2009-10-02 at the Wayback Machine, ChanRobles Law Library.
  2. ^ "Philippines: Abortion Policy" Archived 2017-08-17 at the Wayback Machine, part of World Abortion Policies 2007 Archived 2016-10-22 at the Wayback Machine, United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division.
  3. ^ "Estimating the Level of Abortion In the Philippines and Bangladesh". International Family Planning Perspectives. 23 (3). September 1997. Archived from the original on 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  4. ^ a b c d Conde, Carlos H. (May 16, 2005). "Philippines abortion crisis". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-10-13. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  5. ^ Juarez, Fatima, Cabigon, Josefina, Singh, Susheela, & Hussain, Rubina (2005). "The Incidence of Induced Abortion in the Philippines: Current Level and Recent Trends" Archived 2006-10-27 at the Wayback Machine. International Family Planning Perspectives, 31 (3). Retrieved November 11, 2006.
  6. ^ "Family Health Programs, NCDPC FAQ". Department of Health.[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]