Friday, January 17, 2014

Abortion in the RH Law

The Conference of Death. (Source: Pro-Life Philippines Foundation)
During the deliberations regarding the RH Law, proponents like Lagman and Cayetano emphasizes that the RH Law is not pro-abortion, for otherwise the law will be declared unconstitutional, because the Philippine Constitution forbids abortion:
Article II. Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.
When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973
The RH Law has already been ratified, but its constitutionality still hangs on a balance in Supreme Court.  The pro-RH lobby senses danger: the decision on the RH Law cannot be placed on the hands on Supreme Court Justices.  The pro-RH lobby has to do something: force the Supreme Court to buckle down under international pressure, not just to make the RH Law constitutional, but to amend the Philippine Constitution itself in order to make abortion constitutional.  And the way to do this is to organize a conference promoting not only contraception but abortion as well.

Let us look at the number of times abortion is mentioned in the RH Law:
  • (j) While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortive complications and all other complications arising from pregnancy, labor and delivery and related issues shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner in accordance with law and medical ethics
  • (a) Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that induces abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb upon determination of the FDA. 
  •  (q) Reproductive health care refers to the access to a full range of methods, facilities, services and supplies that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by addressing reproductive health-related problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations. The elements of reproductive health care include the...(3) proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications
  • (s) Reproductive health rights refers to the rights of individuals and couples, to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have children; the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions concerning reproduction, free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual health and reproductive health: Provided, however, That reproductive health rights do not include abortion, and access to abortifacients.
Complications of Abortion: Technical and Managerial Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment
Complications of Abortion: Technical and Managerial Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment
The interesting sentence here is "The elements of reproductive health care include the... (3) proscription of abortion and management of abortion complications."  In mathematics, the parenthesis is important to clarify meanings.  Normally, when we convert a sentence, the verb can be replaced by "=", the preposition "of" is understood to be multiplication or functional dependence, which can both be denoted by parenthesis, and "and" by "+".  Technically, we should use set theoretic language of union and curly braces, but we'll adopt the algebraic or functional translation for clarity.  As you can see, there are two ways to rewrite the sentence of interest:
  • Element (reproductive health)  = proscription (abortion + management (abortion complications)
  • Element (reproductive health) = proscription (abortion) + management (abortion complications)).
These two interpretations are entirely different.  In the first interpretation, both abortion and management of abortion complications are proscribed, i.e. forbidden.  Thus a doctor or nurse or midwife cannot assist in the procurement of abortion or in the management of abortion complications.  In the second interpretation, on the other hand, only abortion is forbidden; management of abortion complications is part of the reproductive health law.  Anti-RH law advocates can be convinced of the validity of the RH law using interpretation 1.  But pro-RH law proponents can use the ambiguity in language to provide wiggle room in introducing abortion in the country by using interpretation 2: a woman can perform the initial attempt at abortion using certain pills, for example, then she can go to the hospitals to have the doctors complete the abortion.  That is why,  in order to resolve the ambiguity, the RH law emphasizes post-abortion care: 
While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortive complications and all other complications arising from pregnancy, labor and delivery and related issues shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner in accordance with law and medical ethics