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Philippine advocacy group presses for passage of abortion law ‘to save women’s lives’

The Catholic Church considers abortion a “mortal sin,” or a sin that brings a soul to hell if not confessed to a priest

An advocacy group in Manila has launched this week a campaign to “decriminalize safe abortion” in the country.

The Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network drafted a bill that aims to “decriminalize induced abortion to save the lives of women, girls, and persons of diverse gender identities.”

Gender rights lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, who helped draft the measure, said “induced abortion” is a “public health issue” and “a public emergency.”

She said even women suffering from miscarriages, incomplete abortion, and risky pregnancies will be helped if they are provided access to “therapeutic abortion.”

An estimated 600,000 women in the Philippines undergo unsafe abortion, or “backstreet abortion” in 2012, according to a study done by Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research group in the United States.

The study, which was cited by the proposed measure, estimated that about,100,000 Filipino women were hospitalized with complications because of induced abortion and about a thousand die every year.

Guttmacher Institute said its data on induced abortion are based on “indirect estimation techniques” to approximate the level of abortion from data in women hospitalized for abortion complications.

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Catholic Church leaders have been vocal in their opposition to all forms of abortion.

In a 2015 statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said abortion “remains a grave and serious wrong.”

“Choosing to terminate innocent, unborn life is not among a woman’s options, because her right to privacy and to make decisions about herself do not extend to the life in her womb, over which she enjoys no dominion at all,” read the bishops’ statement.

“Dependent on her, yes, but entrusted to her stewardship, not handed over to her power,” they added.

The Catholic Church considers abortion a “mortal sin,” or a sin that brings a soul to hell if not confessed to a priest.

Aborting a baby also merits excommunication “from the life of the Church, and from the community of brothers and sisters who uphold the inviolability of life.”

For many Catholics, the gravity of the offense makes it more difficult to confess the sin of abortion.

(LiCAS.news tried to contact several Catholic Church leaders for their reaction to the proposed measure but has not received a reply as of this posting.)

Padilla said church leaders can express their opposition to the proposed measure. “They have the right to do so,” she said.

She pointed out, however, that the title of the bill states that it aims “to save girls and persons with diverse gender identities.”

“So anyone who doesn’t support saving lives, regardless of whatever basis they would have, will have to rethink their beliefs,” said Padilla.

“Otherwise, this public health issue will continue, many people will die, and we can’t keep that on happening,” she added.

Padilla said the proposed bill, if passed into law, will ensure the implementation of proper post-abortion care, which is included in the country’s Reproductive Health Law of 2012.

The Reproductive Health Law, although it prohibits abortion, mandates that the government “shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.”

Padilla assured that the bill “will not force anyone who doesn’t support abortion to undergo abortion,” adding that “freedom of conscience” will be respected.

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