In the Philippines, a country of over 103 million people, access to birth control is largely limited to those with means to buy it.
More than 80 percent of the population is Catholic, which means that the church paired with the conservative government has great sway over the people. Together, they've worked hard to limit reproductive rights in the country.
So, with the lack of contraception and the fact that abortion has been illegal in the Philippines since 1930, Filippino women are left to their own devices — which mean unsafe abortions.
The Guardian reports that roughly 610,000 abortions occur there each year.
Marevic Parcon, program coordinator at the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, spoke to The Guardian about abortions.
"At the end of the day, abortion is about human rights," she said. "No matter how much they deny the existence of abortion in the country, it’s happening under their noses."
She’s right. Women who want to terminate their pregnancies turn to black market sellers of the abortion pill misoprostol and herbs like pamparegla. Both back-alley unsafe alternatives can stimulate a women's menstrual cycle, thus ending the pregnancy. Unfortunately, for women who can’t afford either, they end up taking more drastic measures.
Some throw themselves down the stairs, while others insert coat hangers or sticks in their wombs. Women will even have their stomachs vigorously and aggressively massaged in hopes of inducing abortion.
Parcon states, "It is horrific. It is tantamount to torture."
The results are devastating. Because of these practices, approximately three women die every day from complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Banning abortion is so treacherous, and making it illegal does not in any way eliminate its existence or prevalence. Rather, it just makes abortions unsafe.
When President Donald Trump reinstated the "global gag rule," which bans the U.S. from funding international health organizations that discuss abortions or mention support for abortion rights, he left countries like the Philippines at a significant disadvantage. The fight to advance the discussion about reproductive rights seemed to move in the opposite direction.
But Parcon will keep fighting.
"My hope is that one day Filippino women can say 'abortion' and that there’s no shame in the word," she told The Guardian.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Flickr user Tony Webster