While seemingly affecting only American citizens, Roe v. Wade has devastating implications on Philippine law
Last week, “Roe v. Wade” dominated cyberspace as the Philippines’ top Google search. Surpassing even “Money Heist Korean,” searches like “abortion” and “legal case” by Filipino netizens indicate that the overturning of Roe v. Wade hits hard in a country where abortion laws are draconian.
While seemingly affecting only American citizens, Roe v. Wade has devastating implications on Philippine law. Read on for a refresher on the controversial backslide and how it may affect us.
What is Roe v. Wade?
Roe v. Wade pertains to the January 22, 1973 law banning “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion.” The case followed “Jane Roe’s” federal suit against Dallas district attorney Henry Wade, who violated the plaintiff’s right to privacy by denying her the absolute right to terminate her pregnancy.
Ultimately, the case ruled in Jane Roe’s favor 7-2, but Roe vs. Wade hasn’t gone without its challenges. Cases like Gonzales vs. Carhart (2007, upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act) and Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt (2016, striking down safe abortion standards) have narrowed the scope of Roe v. Wade, though they failed to overturn it—until now.
Why Was Roe v. Wade Overturned?
In a 6-3 ruling to uphold Mississippi’s abortion ban, a 5-4 vote overturned Roe vs. Wade, citing it as “egregiously wrong” and “an abuse of judicial authority.” As such, abortion rights in nearly half of all 50 states will roll back immediately and make abortion services unavailable in most of the U.S.
Ban violations will focus primarily on abortion providers—not those seeking them. Penalties may vary, though states with abortion bans can opt to charge providers with a felony.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling does not directly affect access to contraceptive pills, experts fear that methods like Plan B and IUDs may face legal challenges. Similarly, while abortion pills are federally-approved, access might become limited.
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What Does the End of Roe v. Wade Mean for Filipinos?
Roe v. Wade’s overturn does not affect Filipino women directly—or, at least, not in the way we anticipate. Abortion in the Philippines is still illegal and punishable under law. As such, the Roe v. Wade overruling justifies abortion criminalization, categorizing the act as “infanticide.”
Despite this, 1.26 million abortions occurred locally in 2020, with nearly three deaths per day due to procedure complications. Women guilty of performing illegal abortions can face up to six years of imprisonment.
In the Philippines, where women can be charged for adultery but men cannot, the Roe v. Wade overturn hinders women’s rights even further. Yet, according to English psychoanalyst and pediatrician D.W. Winnicott, “a baby alone does not exist, but is essentially part of a relationship.” So why protect the rights of unborn children, but not the women’s?
Ultimately, this 50-year reversal pits mother against child, even though both parties’ rights are inextricably linked.
What Can You Do About the Roe v. Wade Overturn?
Recent Change.org petitions launched by the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (Pinsan) demonstrate at least 30,000 signatures in favor of decriminalizing abortion. Those who want to advocate for access to safe and legal abortions with the appropriate aftercare can take action in the following ways:
- Learn about the National Policy on the Prevention and Management of Abortion Complications: The PMAC AO aims to reduce local abortion-related deaths by providing safe and high-quality post-abortion care in public and private healthcare facilities.
- Advocate for existing laws protecting women’s rights in case of pregnancy-related complications & study local laws that require post-abortion care like:
- Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710): Requires management of abortion-related complications
- Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH Law): Requires compassionate and humane post-abortion care
- Law Penalizing the Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Administer Appropriate Initial Medical Treatment in Emergency or Serious Cases (RA 8344): Penalizes healthcare providers who fail to administer emergency care to women suffering from abortion-related complications
- Have open discussions with barangay health workers and community health teams.
- Report any violations of the PMAC AO.
- Rally for comprehensive sexual health studies in public and private schools.
- Share help and crisis hotlines on social media.
- Share fact-checked information on social media.
- Understand the reasons why women undergo abortions.
The Bottom Line
The Supreme Court ruling against Roe v. Wade is a devastating step back for U.S. citizens and Filipino women with no access to safe abortions. In a Catholic country with few progressive politicians in office, advocating for safe and legal abortions will not be easy—but it is not impossible.
Words Zoë Alcazaren
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver