Children of God

CITIZEN Y By Yoly Villanueva-Ong (The Philippine Star) Updated July 17, 2012 12:00 AM

The World Population Day slinked by last July 11, with the poignant theme of “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” We were so engrossed with politics, enrapt with the developing 2013 senatorial lineup. There was very little thought given to such an eminent subject.

Only Senator Pia Cayetano took up the cudgels for the contentious RH Bill. She cited the 2011 Family Health Survey that showed maternal deaths in the Philippines increased from 162 to 221 per 100,000 live births (+34.4%) from 2006-11. Cayetano posited that the RH bill could have prevented more maternal deaths by improving access to health services like natural and artificial family planning methods to allow mothers to plan and space their pregnancies; prenatal care to ensure the mother’s health and nutrition, and detect any complication early; modern birthing facilities manned by health professionals for safe deliveries; and postpartum services to monitor and address complications after delivery.

She noted the disparity in the use of modern contraceptives between women with little or no education belonging to poor households versus their educated and better-off counterparts. “There clearly is an urgent need for an RH Law but its hardline critics refuse to see the reality. They refuse to lift a finger to help alleviate the condition of Filipino mothers despite the alarming rise in maternal deaths. It’s high time we end this vicious cycle where mothers are callously denied access to the reproductive health services, which is their right and need. It’s high time to pass the RH bill.”

No sooner had the good Senator spoken than the horrific story of 28-year-old Janice Calipe broke out. Abandoned by her husband, Janice slashed her belly with a kitchen knife, cut the baby out from her womb and stitched herself up with regular needle and thread. The aborted fetus weighed around two kilos, equivalent to full-term, or nine months. She and her aunt then paid two scavengers to bury the baby. The remains of the infant girl were found buried in the vacant lot of an MMDA pumping station in Sta. Mesa.

Aside from facing criminal charges for intentional abortion, Janice is vulnerable to tetanus, which has a long incubation period. Apparently she was only able to sew the skin together but not her uterus that continued to bleed internally. Ironically, Janice finished a course in midwifery.

A mental health expert stated that about 500 similar cases have been reported around the world. He describes the condition as “denial of pregnancy,” an affliction of women who cannot accept their pregnancies and resort to drastic measures when the baby is born.

In another tragic tale, a mother was caught in a sting operation selling her infant girl for P10,000. There was no back-story or follow-up on the arrest, but this was not an isolated case. Previously, a 25-year-old woman was arrested in Kabacan, North Cotabato for selling her baby for P1,000. The plight and desperation of the mothers are as profound as their obsession to get rid of another child.

Another columnist documented the misery of a 42-year-old mother who had 15 pregnancies, two miscarriages, one induced abortion and one adoption. Fely (not her real name) has 12 children aged 26 to five years old. All are living with her in a four-hectare raw land not fit-for-farming in Rizal. Two daughters are single mothers who added three grandchildren to the brood. With 15 mouths to feed and a TB-ridden husband too sick to work, Fely has to be the breadwinner, even if the job takes her away from her family.

Fely finished Grade 3. At a tender age, she ran away from her home in Naga to work as a domestic helper in Pampanga for several years. There, she met her husband who was previously married with four children and ten grandchildren.

Though not legally married, the babies came one after another. When the “hilot” was late, she delivered on her own. She gave up the ninth or tenth child (she wasn’t sure) for adoption and had one induced abortion where she hemorrhaged and almost died. Though weakened, Fely got pregnant a couple more times. She couldn’t breastfeed so she fed condensed milk to her infants.

She said that she once tried to get pills from the health center but they were not free, and she couldn’t pay. They tried the natural family planning method “calendar,” but couldn’t follow it. So they live in extreme misery with a bleak future. Her daughters seem destined to follow in Fely’s footsteps, perpetuating the cycle of destitution and ignorance.

The Catholic Church and some rabid followers are determined to block the RH bill with grim determination. Yet when stories of Janice and Fely are revealed, they offer no sustainable solution. It’s a problem that they have continually denied, just like the pedophiles in their ranks that they swept under the rug until it blew up in their faces.

CBCP is adamantly against the RH bill. They have thwarted population policies in the past. Despite all objective evidence, they insist that there is no correlation between poverty and overpopulation. If that’s spoken ex cathedra, by now they should have provided an alternative for the children of God.

Should they adopt, clothe, feed and educate every waif and rugby kid prowling the streets? Should they comfort every distraught mother who can’t produce food on the table for her family and counsel her so she doesn’t slash her belly to get rid of an unwanted child? Should they support the youth that survive as child laborers and prostitutes?

CCT is one of the government’s programs to alleviate poverty. It is barely enough to cover the two poorest quintiles of 94M Filipinos. If the Church insists on influencing policy, it’s only fair that it should have a poverty-alleviation program of its own, to help the State provide for the multiplying population. In layman’s terms, with all due respect — put up or shut up.

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