The RH Bill: Paving the Path with Good Intentions
by Cesar Santiago S. Castillo (Sar Castillo)
written on August 7, 2012
No Blinders Required
First off, I don’t expect to change your opinion on the matter of the RHBill. This is by no means perfect nor is it designed to be. I may not be the smartest person in most rooms and I surely don’t claim to be. I simply observe the patterns and deduce what the next likely step moving forward is. I am simply baring the thought process I went through in trying to learn more about the issues and deciding what our family’s stand is. I like to know where I stand on historic issues that have to do with our country moving forward. Consider it my way of drawing the proverbial “line on the sand”. No blinders, just open eyes and minds are needed if you decide to indulge me for the next 15 minutes. Ready?
Letter & Spirit
In trying to understand the RHBill, in letter AND spirit, I’ve decided to keep my mind open and digest everything I can about it; analyze it to best of my capacity and pray about where my Family and I stand. To blindly say “YES or NO to RHBill” without trying to understand it would be unfair to those who took the time to articulate their thoughts and try to make the world a better place through this bill. The underlying purpose of the bill is decidedly well intentioned.
While reading the entire RHBill (which can be downloaded here), there was one phrase which kept jumping off the page and began popping up in my minds eyes as well as in several Sections of the Bill: “medically safe, legal”. (It starts showing up from Section 2)[emphasis added] At first, it was just “a phrase” that could easily be interpreted as the “medically right thing to do”. Then it dawned on me, after reading through it several times, I began to see the bigger picture… just like seeing the entire forest instead of a bunch of trees. It’s a clear precursor to something much bigger, the next step of the puzzle.
Why? Because it’s phrased and worded to be specific enough to include what is currently “legal” yet vague enough to include new ones if what is currently “legal” changes its definition.
Paved with Good Intentions
Now, I personally believe that no one intends to be the “bad guy” for evils’ sake. In my experience, evil is less attractive if seen in its true, unadulterated state. Most evil in this world is sugar coated to be made palatable to those who might consider it and usually comes as a guise to justify good intent. Surely a hungry 8 year old who steals 2 pieces of pandesal (one for him/her and one for a younger sibling) cannot be faulted for their actions since they had good intentions… they were hungry and had no money… so they stole some pandesal. Right? Or should they be held accountable? Its not like they stole public funds in the guise of conducting legitimate Basketball Summer Leagues in their barangay. The “liga” (as we call it in the vernacular) was for a worthy cause after all, the development of the minds and bodies of the basketball loving folks and development of the camaraderie of the community, they will most likely justify. Corruption is usually justified with good intentions.
End doesn’t justify the Means
Just like drug dealers. Wait (you’re probably asking), what do drug dealers have to do with this? Bear with me for a while here… you see drug dealers have families to take care of too; children to feed, put through school, spouses who need the occasional gift or two and what not. They do this (“this” meaning dealing drugs, most probably Shabu) for their family.(If they repeat it enough times it could become an acceptable excuse) They may not care that they are in the business of dealing a substance so potent that rehabbing from it is quite useless at this point as Rehab success rates for the drug is low… so low that 93% of Shabu or Methamphetamine addicts who do get admitted to a traditional rehabilitation center ultimately backslide (source:http://www.stuartxchange.org/Shabu.html) and begin re-using Shabu with the vengeance of an athlete carbo loading before a big race. In many developed countries, they are resorting to containment rather than prevention due to the ease of which new users are being turned into addicts and keeping the vicious cycle of drug use alive and well. (Shabu is more commonly known as Crystal Meth in the USA) Possession of any amount of Shabu gets you life imprisonment in the Philippines… if caught. Now, should we legalize the drug and allow the “drugtrepreneurs” to continue their merry ways? They are doing it for a worthy cause, their family, after all right. Or it isn’t as simple as that? Right, it isn’t. It usually never is as simple as we think. The “end does not justify the means” suddenly comes to mind.
Millennium Development Goals (MDG)
Now, this brings me to what I personally believe to be the “letter and spirit” of the RHBill as presently constructed. The “letter” is clear and substantive. For example, maternal healthcare is important, especially for those who cannot afford it themselves. This is life were talking about after all. This is a good intention. In fact Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Enrique Ona specifically said that “We can only say that the entire health system is improving if the maternal mortality rate is also improving” in this article here. Maternal Health is also one of the longer-term MDG (Millennium Development Goals) commitments the administration needs to meet by 2015.
Roe vs. Wade
So, how do you improve maternal mortality rates? One of the proven and documented safe, effective and legal ways (in the USA and other countries) is in fact abortion. So, lets look at some facts from the National Organization for Women (NOW), in the “Before and After Roe vs. Wade” article on their website. They say that “the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973 secured the right to safe and legal abortion in the U.S. Although the legalization of abortion has led to many important improvements in the lives of women and families, this right remains vulnerable.” They go on to say that “Legal abortion is credited with decreasing both maternal and infant mortality. Today, abortion is 11 times safer than childbirth and less than 1% of those who undergo abortion procedures experience major complications”. [emphasis added] See, its credited with decreasing both maternal and infant mortality; commitments we have made and need to meet in the MDG cited earlier. It’s also 11 times safer than childbirth. Proven. Documented. Safe.
Partners in Crime
Whoa there. But abortion is STILL illegal even after the RHBill is passed right? Yes, that’s what it says in the “letter of the law”, but not for long. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but the I will go on record to say that the next step after passing the RHBill will be to “redefine” what is “medically safe and legal” as well as what “from conception” in the 1987 constitution actually means.
But contraception is not all about abortion, right? Let’s see. In a Rappler.com article contributed by Mr. Tony Ahn, specifically entitled “Nobel Prize winner contradicts CBCP”, Prof. George A. Akerlof, the 2001 Nobel Prize Winner, is quoted as saying this as his stance on the bill:”I support fully, and without qualification, the bill in the Philippines to promote, without bias, all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.” It’s jumping off the page I tell you: “medically safe and legal.”
He is quoted to have added this as well: “Contraceptives and abortion, in my opinion, make family life richer and more rewarding because they reduce the number of unwanted children, which is bad for the family, and also bad for the children as well.” Let’s also consider what the Guttmacher Institute says in its latest video on Contraception: “It’s been over four decades since the Supreme Court legalized contraception.” [emphasis added] They are clearly referring to the US Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade in 1973, which legalized abortion… or was it contraception?
You see what they did there? That’s right. Contraceptives and Abortion, in their mind (and in their words not mine) and the minds of many of the same opinion, are peas in the same pod. They are partners in crime, pun intended. Or unlikely “heroes” for the Mothers of more than 40 Million babies who have been aborted safely, effectively and legally since 1973 in the USA alone… and counting.
If one of the goals is to reduce Maternal deaths, which is an important cause to champion, and abortion procedures are “proven safe and effective” and will help get us to the MDG goals, then how far behind is legal abortion to ensure we meet these goals in the future to appease those who want to ensure these goals and commitments are successfully achieved?
But that was the US experience. That won’t happen here, this is our country, the Philippines. Right? Let’s look at this several steps ahead from what we know about our history and the events that continue to shape it. It’s not a surprise to many that the Philippines’ System (aka our Government, its Laws) closely models (and is plausibly based on) that of the United States of America. Many of our laws, save for those we use from the Spanish Legal System like Dacion en Pago, are very closely linked to those of our former and latest colonial rulers. Looking closely at the history of the USA will help us understand and see where this is going. History reveals that before the landmark ruling that was Roe vs Wade in 1973, abortion was illegal in several US States. Until Roe vs Wade opened the floodgates of legal abortion (floodgates is understating it: based on the Abortion Counters’ estimates, since 1973, more than 40 Million Babies have been aborted in the USA. That’s more than the current population of some countries like Australia. An entire country’s worth of babies, and then some. I’ll let that settle for a bit.), which the US Supreme Court deemed as a violation of a woman’s privacy, aborting at any stage of fetal development was a criminal act in some States. Now recent documents bare that millions of dollars in funding have been transferred in favor RH lobbyists. Mostly from US based groups like Planned Parenthood. HumanEvents also cites that “‘Population stabilization’ in developing countries is an official purpose of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), though in keeping with the zeitgeist, efforts to achieve that goal are today called family planning programs.” Or what about Responsible Parenthood. [emphasis added]
Roe No More
Ironically, “Jane Roe” or Ms. Norma McCorvey in real life, is now a staunch Pro-Life advocate whose cause and unlikely conversion story documents what transpired. She started by reminding us who she was and what she used to stand up for by saying:
“I had a reputation to protect, after all. As the plaintiff in the infamous Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, my life was inextricably tied up with abortion. Though I had never had one, abortion was the sun around which my life orbited. I once told a reporter, ‘This issue is the only thing I live for. I live, eat, breathe, think everything about abortion.’”
She recalls her story and succinctly describes her “A-ha moment” here:
“I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. “Norma,” I said to myself, “They’re right.” I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth–that’s a baby!
I felt “crushed” under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception.’ It wasn’t about ‘missed periods.’ It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion–at any point–was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”
Brilliant but Predictable
I have to admit though, It’s really a brilliant yet simple strategy. The long, patient-wait-till-the-defenses-are-down-and-odds-stacked-in-your-favor game… lie there patiently and carefully until you blend in… before you pounce on the first real opportunity of assured victory. Just brilliant, albeit historically quite predictable. Again, I have to give it to those that hatched the idea and have stayed committed to it for as long as they have.
We know that the 1987 constitution outlaws abortion, with law experts citing the phrase in Article II Section 12 which states “…It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” But what exactly is the definition of “from conception” here, given the myriad of possible interpretations depending on who you ask? Is it from fertilization as I and many others may believe? Is it up to 13 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP)? Or 24 weeks? If the life of the mother is in danger, can an emergency abortion be done to save her life? Is her life any more important than the life she is carrying? Whose life is more important and who decides on this? In short, who plays God in this case? Should anyone even play God here?
Laying the Groundwork
Not surprisingly, I believe the RHBill is currently cleverly designed to lay the “legal” groundwork for abortion. This means that the next step and “battle ground” will be the battle of defining “from conception” in the 1987 Constitution in an effort to address its potential legality. All they’re waiting for is a landmark case to bring to the Philippine Supreme Court that will be the Philippine version of “Roe vs. Wade”. All they would need is a Supreme Court (led by the Chief Justice who at this writing has not been named) that is sympathetic to their cause. That WILL make it legal.
Safe, Effective and Modern
Let’s see what we have so far. They’ve already got “medically safe and effective” covered with procedures widely practiced “safely” in the US such as “manual vacuum aspiration” (MVA) which is described in the Surgery Encyclopedia as “The contents of the uterus are suctioned out through a thin plastic tube that is inserted through the cervix; suction is applied by a syringe.” [emphasis added] Doesn’t sound so bad right? Here’s another description for you: Imagine your 2-3 year old prince or princess being violently sucked through (head or feet first) industrial strength suction whose portal is too small for their body (as a syringe will probably be) and hear their body parts being crushed under the immense pressure of the device. They WILL come out of the other side, mangled and all I can assure you that, since the purpose of the vacuum device is to kill them. Not a pretty visual image, I’m sure. This process is usually “performed within the first six to 10 weeks after the last menstrual period (LMP)”.
Manual Vacuum Aspiration is just one of the processes, shockingly. Abortions done in the 2nd Trimester (or about 13+ weeks since the LMP) will use the “Dilation and Evacuation” (D&E) process. Here’s what Dr. Tony Levatino, who conducted abortions in his clinic before, had to say about the process called “D&E”: “The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see a pure white gelatinous material issue from the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. If you have a really bad day like I often did, a little face may come out and stare back at you.”
Safe? You bet. Effective? Sure thing. Legal? For most countries, yes. In the Philippines? Not yet… but they’re coming soon to a clinic near you, if this bill passes and is signed into law. These are “medically safe” reproductive health procedures, we’ll be told.
Unsafe and Clandestine
We’re also told that more than Half a million “illegal, unsafe and clandestine” abortions are being done in the country. (Guttmacher Institute, 2009) Unsafe and Clandestine. These are what cause maternal deaths to go higher every year. Now, consider what the Guttmacher Institute’s 2009 report said on “Abortion Worldwide”:
“There are three known ways to reduce the prevalence of unsafe abortion and its harmful consequences.
■ Expanding access to effective modern methods of contraception and improving the quality of contraceptive information and services may be the strategy that is the most achievable in the near term, and that is most responsive to women’s long-term health needs.
■ Making abortion legal and ensuring that safe abortion services are accessible to all women in need are urgent health, economic and moral imperatives. Unsafe abortion damages the health of millions of women—the poor, predominantly. The consequences of unsafe abortion are costly to already struggling health systems (and more costly than services to prevent unintended pregnancy or provide safe abortion). And restrictive abortion laws are an unacceptable infringement of women’s human rights and of medical ethics.
■ Improving the quality and coverage of postabortion care through the increased use of the safest and most cost effective methods for such care—MVA and medication abortion—at primary-level facilities would allow a higher proportion of cases to be safely treated, and would reduce both maternal mortality and morbidity and the cost of postabortion services.” [emphasis added]
The Missing Piece
Notice the pattern evolving? 2 of the 3 “known ways” to reduce unsafe abortion are in the RHBill… Bullet points 1 and 3. The missing piece, “Making abortion legal and ensuring that safe abortion services are accessible” is the clear next step here. They clearly showed that legalizing abortion made it safer and will lead to a lower number of maternal deaths. Is there still any doubt where we’re really headed here?
Just because some politicians don’t tell you during the campaign that they are using and allocating public funds for their own benefit does not mean that they don’t really do it. For all we know, they could easily be setting up a potential smokescreen for “legal” corruption when they’re back in power. It’s in their best interest not to be completely truthful. The incentive to withhold certain information will benefit them. For obvious reasons, if the current RHBill states that it will eventually legalize abortion (which it makes sure NOT to state), it will be dead in the water. However, what the RHBill WILL NOT tell you is that its really a stepping stone for the biggest piece of the puzzle… one that is proven safe and effective, based on more than 39 years of experience. We need to meet those MDG commitments, right? There is data showing us how to safely and effectively lead us there as well. Now all that’s left is the “legal” part.
Line in the Sand
In its present form, since they specifically did not include the physical and/or medicinal types (which I didn’t even discuss here yet) of abortion in Sec.28 or the Prohibited Acts of the Bill; are decidedly not clear that cruel and inhumane medical procedures (such as MVA and D&E) are specifically “off the table” and are implied to be included (as “medically safe and effective”) should the “legal” definition be taken cared off and changed altogether when it has passed into law; My wife and I, along with our 3 young children, cannot and will not support the RHBill, which looks intent to lay the groundwork for legalized abortion in the Philippines.
Population Stabilization. Family Planning. Reproductive Health. Responsible Parenthood.
Like wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Sar Castillo is the Managing Director of Expectant Mind Consulting Solutions, a Philippine based consulting firm that works as trusted advisors to leaders of organizations. They add value by inspiring actionable ideas in the fields of Leadership and Management Development, Customer Service, Strategic Planning, Building Habits of Success and Anti-Corruption through Integrity Development. This enables the organizations they work with to make a difference where it counts— the personal and professional lives of their people. You can follow him on twitter @sarcastillo