Press Release
May 30, 2011

By Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

  • The senate bills of Senators Enrile, Estrada, Recto, and Revilla protecting the life of the so-called unborn erroneously equate contraception with abortion. They restrict access to contraceptives and increase the Revised Penal Code provisions on abortion.

  • Government officials should uphold our Constitution which guarantees the separation of church and state and non-establishment of religion. Legislators who want to pass such protection of the unborn are trying to enact legislation that establishes the views of the Catholic Church hierarchy.

  • The Constitution, Article 2, Section 12 mandates: "The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception." Based on the above Constitutional provision, the unborn cannot be protected separately from its mother, otherwise the word "equally" loses all its sense and purpose, and the phrase becomes fractured and meaningless. Up until the period of fetal viability, the unborn cannot survive without the mother surviving as well. The Constitution and basic biological necessities inextricably links the life of the unborn with the life of its mother.

  • The proposed law will not initiate outlawing abortion, for abortion is already a crime under the Revised Penal Code of 1930.

  • he proposed law will make pregnancies even more risky for women. It will also remove decision-making during pregnancy complications away from the woman, her loved ones, and their health provider who are in the best position to balance the lives at stake and weigh the risks and consequences. It will transfer difficult choices to a distant, cold, and inflexible law. In effect, the proposed law will treat women as mere incubating machines to ensure the life of the unborn.

  • The key principle remains that the choice to risk maternal death belongs first and foremost to the mother. If the Protection of the Unborn Child Act is approved, risk-taking by mothers becomes mandatory and expectant management--until danger becomes imminent or the ectopic pregnancy resolves spontaneously--may become the norm preferred by physicians to avoid criminal prosecution.

  •  Comprehensive reproductive health care--which among others include prenatal care, safe delivery through skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric and newborn care, the promotion of breastfeeding, family planning and sexuality education to prevent early pregnancies--is a program that will protect the interests of both the mother and her child.

Contraceptives Are Not Abortifacients

  • In the United Kingdom case of Smeaton v. Secretary of State for Health, the judicial challenge by the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child claiming that emergency contraceptive pills contravened the Offenses against the Person Act of 1861 was dismissed by the High Court. The England and Wales High Court ruled that emergency contraception is not considered abortion under the scope of the current medical and legal science.

  • IUDs prevent pregnancy. They do not cause miscarriages. In medical practice, IUD is not used once a pregnancy is established.

  • Contrary to claims that IUDs are abortifacients, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has definitively stated that IUD is not an abortifacient.

  • Women have a right to contraceptives. Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing and ICPD Conference documents, the Philippines is obligated and committed to provide information and access to family planning methods. Denying access to IUD is a blatant violation of the woman's freedom to decide whether and when to bear children. Such denial risks women's lives and health.

Secular Standards

  • In the case of Ang Ladlad vs. Comelec, the Supreme Court held, "At bottom, what our non-establishment clause calls for is 'government neutrality in religious matters.' Clearly, 'governmental reliance on religious justification is inconsistent with this policy of neutrality.' We thus find that it was grave violation of the non-establishment clause for the COMELEC to utilize the Bible and the Koran to justify the exclusion of Ang Ladlad."

  • Such restriction of access to modern contraceptives is an imposition of one's religious morality on the whole Filipino populace.

  • As has been held by the Supreme Court in the Estrada vs. Escritor and Ang Ladlad vs. Comelec cases, our laws and system of governance should be based on secular morality and not religious morality.

  • Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion

  • Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a State Party and has the obligation to fulfill, protects the individual's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

  • Article 27 of the ICCPR ensures the rights of minorities, inter alia, to enjoy their own culture and to practice their own religion.

  • Both of these rights are violated when a predominant religion imposes its religion and beliefs on other faiths and believers such as what would happen if the anti-choice beliefs become government policy.

  • The Human Rights Committee (HRC), the United Nations committee tasked to monitor the implementation of the ICCPR, stated that the fact that a religion is established as official or that its followers comprise the majority of the population shall not result in any impairment of the enjoyment of the rights under the Covenant, including articles 18 and 27, nor in any discrimination against adherents to other religions or non-believers.

  • The government's role in protecting religious freedom is critical, otherwise, the predominant religion, or even well mobilized minorities, can invoke the state's power to curb the religious freedoms of others whose views differ from theirs.

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