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Japan’s abortion pill up for approval, what about PH?

by Jericho Zafra

THE Philippines remains lagging behind other countries in interventions regarding unplanned pregnancies. While neighboring nations including Japan have already made steps to make abortion methods accessible to women, various reproductive rights groups have been calling on the Philippine government to decriminalize abortion.

Recently, Japan made another huge step ahead of other countries restricting abortion, as its Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry said experts would decide whether to authorize an oral, two-drug combination to perform an abortion for the very first time in the country.

Abortion has traditionally been performed surgically in Japan, and if the ministry’s expert council approves the oral combination, the new abortion option may give a much less difficult option for women, according to reports.

What about Japan’s abortion pill?

In December 2021, the British pharmaceutical company Linepharma, according to the report,  submitted an application for authorization to produce and sell the drugs in Japan under the moniker Mefeego Pack. The two medications are misoprostol, which induces the contraction of the uterus, and mifepristone, which blocks the progesterone hormone, which is required to maintain pregnancy. 

In Japan’s clinical trials, the drugs allowed 93 percent of 120 pregnant women who wanted to terminate their pregnancies at up to 63 days of gestation to do so within 24 hours. Even though 60 percent of the patients experienced symptoms including nausea and vomiting, most of them were mild to moderate, it said.

How does it work?

According to a Planned Parenthood report, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the abortion pill, women are required to take mifepristone first to block progesterone. 

Progesterone is a hormone that is necessary for pregnancy to develop normally. By blocking your body’s natural progesterone, mifepristone prevents the pregnancy from progressing, said the report.

After taking the first pill, a pregnant woman undertaking abortion practice could intake the second pill, misoprostol, right away or after 48 hours.

The report likewise noted that the woman’s uterus will become empty as a result of this medication’s cramping and bleeding side effects.

The process is quite comparable to an early miscarriage, and it feels something like having a particularly heavy, menstrual cramps period, it said.

The status of women in the Philippines

According to the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, at least 1,000 women are believed to have died and 90,000 more suffered complications as a result of the prohibition against abortion and as a result of threats of criminal prosecution in the Philippines in 2008 alone.

“As a result of the criminal abortion law and the discriminatory environment in the Philippines, women are left without a means to control their fertility, exposed to unsafe abortions, and made vulnerable to abuse in the health system,” the report said.

The Philippine government is still being urged by numerous reproductive rights organizations including the United Nations Human Rights Council to decriminalize abortion, despite the fact that neighboring countries like Japan have already taken measures to make abortion available to women.

A report from the United Nations Sexual and Productive Health Agency in the 2022 State of World Population Report said that a whopping 257 million women who wish to avoid getting pregnant don’t use secure and up-to-date contraceptive methods.

Localizing the report, it was revealed that the Philippines’ unintended pregnancy makes up 51 percent of all pregnancies, which is nearly the same as the world average.

The country also ranked 56th among 150 countries in the world with the number of unintended pregnancies, it said.

The Church and the State

In 2020, Rev. Fr. Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reiterated the Catholic Church stand in abortion saying that doing such practice “have no place” in the Philippine society and said killing of the defenseless is the “most senseless and dreadful of all crimes.”

According to the Church, those who practice abortion should be accountable for this crime under the law

As enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, performing abortion practices is a criminal offense in the Philippines under the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 or the Republic Act 10354 which means every woman who commits abortion practices could face imprisonment of up to six months or a fine ranging from P10,000 to P100,000.

It was also indicated under the Constitution that while it acknowledges abortion is illegal, the national government shall guarantee that every woman who seeks healthcare for post-abortive complications and other pregnancy-related issues are handled and counseled in accordance with the Constitution and medical ethics.



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