Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
Who is more important, the unborn or the mother? No, this is not a trick question. Unfortunately for women, some of our legislators seem to believe that the unborn is more important than the mother.
I refer to several bills on the “protection of the unborn” filed in both Houses of Congress.
At the House of Representatives, Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez filed HB13, “An Act Providing for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child and for Other Purposes” lodged with the Committee on the Welfare of Children. Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, for his part filed HB3667, “An Act Increasing the Penalties Against Abortion, Amending for the Purpose Articles 256, 257, 258 and 259 of the Revised Penal Code, and for Other Purposes” referred to the Committee on Revision of Laws.
In the Senate, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla, Jr. filed identical bills, SBs 2497 and 2635 both entitled, “An Act to Uphold the Human Rights and Promote the Welfare of the Unborn Child, Amending for the Purpose Articles 256, 257, 258 and 259 of the Revised Penal Code, and for Other Purposes.” Sen. Ralph Recto on the other hand, authored SB2584, “An Act for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child and for Other Purposes,” an exact replica of the Golez bill.
Needless to say, all the bills mentioned have the same intent: to protect the unborn. Nothing in these bills takes cognizance of the mother’s needs and rights.
Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution clearly says, “The State… shall EQUALLY protect the life of the mother and the life of the UNBORN from conception…” (emphasis mine).
Let’s see if these bills follow this Constitutional provision which, authors say is the foundation of their legislative proposals.
First, all these bills speak of the unborn as a CHILD. I take issue with this because the Constitution does not call the unborn a child. If the framers meant to equate the former with the latter, they would have done that. An unborn can be anything from an egg, a zygote, to a fetus about to be born.
A child is someone who is born into this world, a complete human person like you and me. A child is a citizen, and therefore, has human rights.
Calling the unborn a child to me is going beyond what the Constitution provides.
Second, the Constitution speaks of EQUAL protection of the mother and the unborn. The bills in question fully protect the unborn but completely neglect the mother. Some provisions can even be interpreted as protective of the unborn at the expense of the mother.
Section 5 of bills of Enrile and Revilla (contents are the same with Sections 6 and 7 of Recto’s bill) reads, “Protection of the Unborn Child. – The unborn child shall be protected from abortifacients, abortive acts and practices that include abortion… which endanger or expose the unborn child to damage, injury or death, WHETHER COMMITTED WITH OR WITHOUT VIOLENCE, AND WHETHER COMMITTED WITH OR WITHOUT CONSENT OF THE MOTHER…” (emphasis mine)
While the Constitutional prohibition against abortion must be observed, this provision is at best blind to the plight of women who are in problematic relationships or abused by their partners. Why would the law punish a pregnant woman who was subjected to violence that resulted in an abortion? Why would the absent of consent of the woman not taken into consideration? Under these circumstances, the woman is a victim, not a criminal.
Section 6, Parental Rights and State Power Over the Unborn Child of the Enrile and Revilla bills (similar to section 7 of Recto’s) gives superior powers to parents of a pregnant minor and the only time that the State can come in is to protect the unborn child from abortion.
This provision doesn’t at all care about the welfare of the pregnant minor. It is as if the young woman does not have any rights at all. What if the pregnancy was due to rape? Worse, what if the perpetrator is a family member (which is not unthinkable)?
These “unborn bills” may be in violation of the very Constitutional provision they are anchored on. There is no equal protection for the mother’s life here. In fact, these bills are very harsh on women.
Third, to protect the unborn, we must first protect the mother.
It is frustrating that these bills tend to pit the unborn against mothers. Why do our honorable lawmakers resort to this?
We do not need expertise to know that for as long as the unborn remains inside the woman’s womb, it is completely dependent on the woman’s body systems. Science has not advanced to that level where a woman is no longer needed to give life to others, or to make men capable of being pregnant and giving birth.
For as long as this is the situation, the health of all unborn depends upon the mother’s health. The unborn will not be born without the mother.
Laws, therefore, should protect the mother and address her needs. Make pregnancies and childbirths safe. This will redound to the protection and welfare of the unborn.
The Constitution says the mother and unborn shall be equally protected. The way to protect the unborn is through the mother. This is the way to do it.
My piece, “The church of the poor” elicited much response and the big majority expressed indignation (and I am being mild here) about the riches of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church. They share the view that the Roman Catholic Church should do a lot more in helping poor Filipino Catholics.
There are those who gave more information and I would like to thank them even if they choose to be anonymous. I intend to verify these information before using them.
To those interested, all the data I wrote about are publicly available from the sources I named. Moreover, I intend to write another piece if more information come my way.