RH Bill Supporters Reject Proposal to Decriminalize Abortion

By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) Updated August 07, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines – Reproductive Health bill advocates yesterday expressed strong opposition to a proposal by a New York-based human rights group to legalize abortion in the Philippines to prevent desperate pregnant women from undergoing unsafe abortions.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), said the legalization of abortion is not the right approach to prevent pregnancy-related deaths in the country.

“Legalization of abortion is not the right approach to address the increasing number of mothers dying every day due to pregnancy and pregnancy-related complications,” San Pascual said in a statement.

He said the PLCPD, however, is firmly pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development bill to allow couples to have access to legal and medically safe family planning methods that will reduce unplanned pregnancies which eventually will lessen the incidence of abortion in the country.

“The legal and culturally-sensitive approach in reducing maternal deaths is for women and couples to practice family planning, provide skilled birth attendants to every delivery, and establish basic and emergency obstetric care which is accessible in urban and rural settings,” San Pascual said.

He noted that voluntary family planning can reduce maternal deaths by 20 to 35 percent based on the report of the World Health Organization in 1995.

“These can be institutionalized by passing into law the RH bill,” San Pascual said.

San Pascual said the proposed measure does not consider abortion as a family planning method.

In fact, San Pascual said, the Guiding Principles of the bill state that “nothing in this Act changes the law on abortion.”

He, however, stressed that “though abortion is not legal, the government should ensure that all women needing post-abortion care must be treated in a humane and non-judgmental manner.”

San Pascual also called on the media and the public not to confuse the campaign for the legalization of abortion in the Philippines as part of the reproductive health advocacy campaign.

“To reiterate, abortion is not part of PLCPD’s proposed measures on reproductive health and that the organization is not a part, and will not be a part, of any group that will call for the legalization of abortion in the Philippines,” said San Pascual.

Justifying circumstances

But abortion advocates yesterday assured legislators that there are “justifying circumstances” that can warrant the legalization of abortion in the country.

According to Dr. Florence Tadiar, chief executive director of the Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA), abortion is prohibited in the Revised Penal Code of 1930 but there is no specific provision against the procedure in the Constitution.

Tadiar said the Penal Code was ironically patterned after the Spanish Penal Code of 1870 that embodies Spanish colonial prohibition on abortion.

Ironically, however, Tadiar claimed that Spain has long permitted abortion in some cases.

“That’s why our legislators really have to look at our law and how it can address the problems of women. Generally, there’s always an exception. There are justifying circumstances where abortion can be allowed,” she told The STAR.

Yesterday, the ISSA and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights met with party-list congressmen and their representatives to present the center’s report entitled “Forsaken Lives: The Harmful Impact of the Philippine Criminal Abortion Ban.”

Tadiar noted the report only proves the need to pass Reproductive Health Bills to minimize unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, thus helping eliminate abortion.

She maintained that the government needs to identify these “justifying circumstances” to boost the decriminalization of abortion. In other countries, termination of pregnancies is allowed in cases like rape, fetal impairment and when the life of the mother is in danger.

Source: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=600474&publicationSubCategoryId=63

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