Abortion in the Philippines: a national secret

From Reuters:

MANILA, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Minda is a masseuse with a difference. Her caress is used to abort foetuses.

The 50-year-old grandmother has lost count of the number of pregnancies she has terminated in this largely Roman Catholic country where abortion is illegal and strictly taboo, but where about half a million women end their pregnancies every year.

The backstreet abortions performed by healers like Minda may become more common as a United States government aid program plans to stop distributing contraceptives in the Philippines in 2008. This will leave birth control up to the government which under the influence of Catholic bishops advocates unreliable natural birth control methods rather than the pill and condoms.

Most women who seek abortions are like Remy, married with several children and too poor to afford another baby.

The petite 44-year old, who declined to give her last name, paid 150 pesos ($3) for a hilot, or traditional midwife like Minda, to crush her three-month old foetus using rough strokes and pincer-like grips on her belly.

The procedure, which can also involve pounding the lower abdomen to trigger a miscarriage, is called a massage.

“I felt guilty but I thought it was better than having another child that will only suffer because we have no food,” she said in an interview in a slum on the outskirts of Manila.

Remy bled for a week after her session with the hilot, passing out with the pain. She refused to let her husband take her to the hospital because of the shame of what she had done and because they couldn’t afford the medical bills.