Abortion is illegal in the Philippines. Criminalisation, however, has not prevented the practice, only pushed it underground. Half a million women who try to terminate their pregnancies each year have no access to safe facilities.
The Catholic Church’s strong influence in the country has attached huge shame and stigma to the topic of abortion. As a result, some women with high-risk pregnancies carry their babies to term, putting their life and that of the baby’s in danger.
Unmarried women who fall pregnant are rejected by their families in this conservative society and are left to cope alone. That emotional strain together with the pressure of having a newborn baby means some end up abandoning or neglecting their children or trying to place them in institutional care. Mothers are left feeling isolated, living in poverty and vulnerable to abuse.
In this society, children and youth with disabilities are especially vulnerable, facing discrimination and with little access to support services.
NORFIL Foundation was established in 1983 to work with disadvantaged single mothers and neglected children in Manila in response to the increasing incidence of abortions, unwanted pregnancies and abandoned children.
It operates a community-based rehabilitation programme for children and youth with disabilities, a foster home care and adoption programme and runs a group home for single mothers. With a vast catalogue of experience, NORFIL has developed credibility at a national level and uses that advantage to continue its commitment to support disadvantaged women and children.
The organisation works hard to preserve the links between the children and their mothers. Beneficiaries are counselled and housed in a care residence, Here they are looked after by social workers and doctors, both during their pregnancies and after they give birth. They are also helped to feel integrated in society, through basic education, personal development, initial care of newborn babies and dialogue with families.
NORFIL’s goal is to allow thirty young pregnant unmarried women to escape isolation and begin motherhood with the support they need.
Photo: Jacob Meantez