2022 PH presidential race

‘Very conflicted’: Robredo still anti-abortion, but open to listen for extreme cases

Mara Cepeda
‘Very conflicted’: Robredo still anti-abortion, but open to listen for extreme cases

ROBREDO SPEAKS. In this file photo, Vice President Leni Robredo speaks during her courtesy visit to His Excellency Most Rev. Moises M. Cuevas D. D., the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, at the Sacred Heart Center in Zamboanga del Sur on January 25, 2022.

Jay Ganzon/OVP

A devout Catholic and a women's rights advocate, Vice President Leni Robredo understands how the abortion ban has become detrimental to pregnant Filipinas

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo, the lone female presidential bet in the May polls, maintained her position against abortion but said she is willing to discuss legalizing the practice for extreme cases.

Asked by entertainment host Boy Abunda on Wednesday, January 26, if she would allow pregnant rape victims to abort their babies, Robredo admitted she is “very conflicted” over the matter. 

A devout Roman Catholic, the Vice President said her faith tells her any form of killing is wrong. But as an alternative lawyer and women’s rights champion who have represented abused women in court, Robredo is well-aware how the Philippines’ strict abortion laws become detrimental to mothers. 

So while Robredo is against abortion for now, if she wins as president in May, she would be open to listen to advocates who have long been pushing to legalize abortion for certain cases.

“This is a topic that I’m very conflicted about because of the data that you have mentioned…. The reason why I’m so conflicted about it, kasi ako, my faith teaches me na bawal talaga ‘yung magpatay. Ang ina-allow lang sa atin, Boy, na legal abortion, kung endangered ‘yung life ng mother,” said Robredo. 

(This is a topic that I’m very conflicted about because of the data that you have mentioned…. The reason why I’m so conflicted about it is because my faith teaches me that killing is wrong. What’s allowed for legal abortion here is when the mother’s life is endangered.)

“Pero having said that, ako kontra ako sa abortion, pero sa akin, bukas akong pag-usapan ‘yung decriminalization ng abortion. I would like to listen to more people about it,” said the Vice President. 

(But having said that, I am against abortion, but for me, I am open to talk about the decriminalization of abortion. I would like to listen to more people about it.)

Because abortion is illegal in the Philippines, desperate Filipinas seeking to terminate their pregnancies end up choosing to undergo potentially fatal procedures offered by underground abortionists. Some women even opt for crude and unsanitary methods to abort their babies on their own. 

Reproductive health advocates continue to push for the decriminalization of abortion for these reasons, arguing doing so would save women’s lives and prevent disability from unsafe abortion complications. 

Robredo acknowledged this during the interview, saying there is a “difficult balancing act” between her faith and her understanding that underground abortion procedures are unsafe for women. 

“Mas unsafe kasi dahil hindi mo pinapayag, marami nagre-resort sa mga practices na hindi talaga siya medically safe. So, sa akin, while I’m open to discussing decriminalizing abortion, if you ask me now if I am for or against it, I’m against abortion,” said the Vice President. 

(It becomes more unsafe because when you don’t allow them to do it, more women resort to undergo practices that aren’t medically safe. So for me, while I’m open to discussing decriminalizing abortion, if you ask me now if I am for or against it, I’m against abortion.)

Robredo has always taken an anti-abortion position, even when she was asked about it during the vice presidential debates in the 2016 elections.

She still rejected abortion in a September 2021 interview with Rappler. But Robredo also alternatively urged the government to improve local health services to help avoid “extreme situations” for women.  Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.