Abortion in the Philippines
Shutterstock/Lewis Tse Pui Lung

‘Call after 4, my secretary is listening’

By Sarah Friday, September 27, 2019 - 12:08
When Amanda visited a doctor for her abortion, she refused point blank. Abortion is banned in the Philippines, she told her. But as she handed over the prescription, it had a secret note for Amanda. ‘Call me after 4’, it said. Love Matters brings you a story from the Philippines where doctors are risking their lives to provide safe abortions to women.

The reality 

Amanda, a young single mother, was shocked when she learned she was pregnant with her second child. For a minute, she toyed with the idea of having a sibling for her son but then the reality struck her. She didn’t earn enough money to support two children. 

‘I decided to abort and did my share of crying when deciding on this,’ she was quoted as saying on the Rappler website. ‘Once I made my decision, I had to find a reliable abortionist’. Yes, an 'abortionist’ as doctors do not perform abortions in the Philippines. 

Amanda began searching for options. She asked her friends, nearby clinics and even searched on Google. 

Her search eventually took her to a doctor a friend had recommended. She dropped her son to school and went to the doctor eagerly looking for help. As she reached the clinic, there was a long queue. She waited patiently for her turn. 

‘My secretary is listening’

During the appointment, the doctor told Amanda she couldn’t help her. Abortion was banned in the Philippines. And that was that. But as she handed over the prescription,  Amanda noticed it had a piece of paper stuck to it, with a note scribbled on it. It said, ‘Call me after 4 at this number, my secretary is listening now.’ 

Amanda left the clinic with some hope. 

At home, she desperately waited for the clock to move. She could hardly focus on anything except the time. Was the doctor going to help her get an abortion, she kept thinking. 

The clock struck 4 and she dialed the number. The doctor put her in touch with a secret network of underground doctors who performed abortions across the country. 

Midnight help

From that number, Amanda was connected to a lady – who was the secretary of the network. She sent her a detailed email – asking her details and medical history. Amanda first hesitated to provide the details but she had no choice. The mail asked for her ultrasound report, along with other tests. 

Once she sent all the details, a date was decided for the procedure. She was asked to check into a hotel (which was near a hospital) and was told that the doctor would visit her, along with a nurse, after midnight. 

The doctor opted for a surgical abortion and Amanda was given proper postnatal care. She stayed in the hotel for three days and the doctor visited her every day. She was asked to keep in touch with the doctor on text messages until she got her first period after abortion. 

The undergroup group of doctors also sends abortion pills – along with detailed instructions, to women who are want to terminate their pregnancies in the first few weeks at home. 

This network of doctors came together in 2008 with the aim of providing safe, professional abortions for women in a country where terminating a pregnancy poses very serious risks. They do charge for the abortions but conduct them secretly, putting their own lives at risk. 

Secret network of abortions

In 2012, more than 600,000 illegal, and often unsafe abortions are estimated to have taken place in the country. Many women turn to dangerous methods like inserting sharp objects into their wombs, painful stomach massages and the use of various herbs, according to an article in The Guardian.

These unsafe and often ineffective methods are performed by ‘backstreet abortionists,’ many of whom advertise their services on a secret online forum. Filipinas in desperate need of information visit the forum where the abortionists’ services are rated by other women. 

A woman who decides to have an abortion—or someone who helps her, in any way—can be sent to jail for up to six years. Each year, 100,000 Filipina women are hospitalised and a shocking 1000 die from abortion-related complications.

But the forum’s most popular thread discusses the network of underground doctors who believe that women have the right to make decisions about their own health, and are providing them with a means of doing so.  

Names changed. Person in the picture is a model. 

Love Matters supports women’s right to choose and make decisions about their bodies. Read more about abortion and contraceptive choices on Love Matters. The story has been dramatised but key points in the story are true and factual.

If you have any questions on abortion, please ask Love Matters (LM) experts on our discussion forum. Don't forget to check out our Facebook  page. 

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