By Jeross Aguilar, Rinaldi Ridwan, and Victoria Wong Li Leng
Speaking about safe abortion, it can be punished with criminal charge for some countries in East and South East Asia and Oceania region. Surprisingly, this region has a wide range of law in which the safe abortion can be performed. Safe abortion in many countries within the East, South-East Asia and Oceania region is restricted to specific conditions, mostly health related but otherwise may be considered a criminal offense.
Based on our concern, we believe that safe abortion is a part of women’s reproductive rights. Safe abortion is important to be acknowledged and legalized as this may pertain to maternal death as women who have no access to contraceptive information and services and who could no longer support their growing number of children must desperately resort to unsafe abortion procedures. Let’s see how abortion law performed in 12 countries in ESEAO region that lay down permissible conditions for safe abortion.
Laws on abortion either expressly allow abortion to be performed only to save the life of a woman or are governed by general principles of criminal legislation which allow abortion to be performed for that reason on the ground of necessity. In addition, the British case of R. v. Bourne or local application of that decision applies. Under that decision, the ground of necessity was interpreted to encompass abortion performed on grounds of preserving physical and mental health.
Laws on abortion do not expressly allow abortion to be performed to save the life of a woman, but general principles of criminal legislation allow abortion to be performed for that reason on the ground of necessity.
Same as Fiji
Criminalisation of abortion in the Philippines
Specifically, in the Philippines safe abortion has been restrictive since 1930s and women who undergo abortion are imprisoned, as well as those who assist her to have an abortion – husband, midwife, parents, etc. The law is not also explicit in allowing abortion to save a woman’s life.
Unfortunately, proposal to liberalize the abortion law are strongly opposed by the Catholic Church. Current statistics show an increase of women having unsafe abortions which nearly half a million a year primarily for economic reasons – poor, too many children, and cannot afford health care. (Guttmacher study).
“Other attempts to reduce unsafe abortion through contraception and family planning are also blocked by the Catholic Church. It is hoped that passing the Reproductive Health Bill will significantly reduce the incidence of unsafe abortions.” – Jeross, youth representative from FPOP.
Malaysia: lack of knowledge to legal status of abortion mainly on health provider
Moving to Malaysia, it has always been a taboo to talk about having an abortion Abortion has always been a taboo in Malaysia. According to the survey results conducted with 120 doctors and nurses, there is evidence that there are judgmental and unsympathetic perception of many health care providers on abortion and unwanted pregnancies Evidence in a survey conducted among 120 doctors and nurses suggests that health care providers are judgmental and unsympathetic of abortion and unwanted pregnancies (S.P. Choong, 2008). Lack of knowledge to legal status of doctors, nurses, the media and the public that abortion is restricted in Malaysia has been a major barrier for young women to access health information and services (Kamaluddin, 2008).
However section 312 of the Penal Code of Malaysia permits abortion on these grounds: to save the life of the woman; to preserve her physical and or mental health. Furthermore, The Malaysian National Population and Family Development Board Survey on secondary school students in 2007 revealed that 21.2% who knew their friends have unwanted pregnancies, and 10% who has friends whom had undergone abortion (LPPKN, 2007).