Carolina S. Ruiz-Austria and WomenLEAD’s view of Women vs. the Unborn

31 Jan

Women’s Journal on Law & Culture
“From Mortal Sin to Human Rights: Redefining the Philippine Policy on Abortion”
Vargas, Flordeliza C., editor Ruiz-Austria, Carolina S. et al, authors
Women’s Legal Education, Advocacy, and Defense Foundation, Inc. Quezon City 2001

The authors studied certain provisions of the Philippine Constitution, the Revised Penal Code, the New Civil Code, and other special laws that pertain to the issue of abortion. Reference to international agreements was made, too. In an attempt to present a clear picture of the court’s viewing and handling of abortion, the article cited a 1961 decision of the Supreme Court where abortion was declared justified only when there is a “medical necessity to warrant it.” However, the authors opined that to limit access to abortion is an infringement of women’s human rights which include the exercise of full sexual and reproductive rights, the right to self-determination, the right to life and health, liberty, and privacy (p.91).

The article also examines the country’s policies on abortion and their effects on advocacy work, particularly with regard to women’s reproductive health. In RA 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers of 1992, maternity benefits are not extended in cases of “induced” abortions, as the law so defines it. Discriminatory provision as this cannot be found in other legally mandated maternity benefit programs whether for the government or the private sector (p.95). The Population Act of 1971 or RA 6365 likewise leaves out abortion from what is acceptable contraception. The Medical Act of 1959 or RA 2382 allows for the reprimand, suspension, and revocation of a medical practitioner’s license upon performance of an illegal abortion or aiding in the performance thereof. The Barangay-Level Total Development and Protection of Children Act of 1990 or RA 6972, forewarns daycare centers against illegal abortions (p.95).

The article then presented the multifarious and conflicting views of various camps and authorities on abortion and laws relative to it. But the authors believe there should be no argument that the woman is a person. One must be given the right to decide over matters that concern her life and her body. They also find a dearth in laws that address the needs of women and even children who get impregnated as a result of rape (p.98).

The article culminated with recommendations for advocacy. It underscores how a reversal in the unfair treatment of women in the eyes of the policy environment can benefit women’s reproductive health advocacy in the country. As such, the authors call for a clear definition of State policy on public health – one that will represent a fair concept of women’s health. This can only be possible if women’s issues as reproductive health care and violence against women are not trivialized but are looked at with utmost priority.

Some points in my mind: what rights does the baby in her womb have? This doesn’t seem clear to me. It apparently does not consider a fetus to be a human being — not a living creature. Is it moral to kill someone who has no chance to defend himself but has every right to live?

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