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by Paula Cheng
One hundred sixty-two women out of 100,000 die due to complications in pregnancy, childbirth or the period immediately after that. 162 families lose their ilaw ng tahanan because of the lack of facilities, information dissemination and/or health care providers. 162 happy moments turn into devastating ones as mothers lose their lives because of reasons we can actually prevent.
In the Family Planning Survey of the National Statistics office last 2006, these 162 deaths are already less than the deaths of previous years, which were 172 in 1998 and 209 in 1993. However, this number is still a far cry from the Millennium Development Goal 5 set by the United Nations – reducing maternal deaths to 55 per 100,000 by 2015.
This is actually one of the reasons why the RH Bill is being proposed – to provide quality Maternal Health Care to everyone. While the end is indeed noble, we cannot justify achieving, or trying to achieve, it through wrong means. The end cannot justify the means.
Being a medical student, people would normally assume that I’m for the RH bill. When they do realize or read from my FB stats that I’m not, they wonder, why? Let me again share some of my personal reasons.
Being a Catholic, I am against the proposition of the RH Bill to use taxpayer’s money to fund something that is intrinsically “evil” – artificial contraception. The Church teaches us that the only allowable means of contraception is the Natural Family Planning method which can be further broken down into different types such as the Calendar Rhythm Method, Cervical Mucus Method/Billings Method and Symptothermal Method. The Church teaches us that these methods are allowable since they are based on the natural cycles of the human body and are therefore God-given means of controlling and spacing births between children. To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator (Humanae Vitae 13). This again stems from the teaching that we are not the owners of our bodies, merely stewards of them.
Artificial contraceptives, on the other hand, are unnatural. Some contraceptives even go as far as not only preventing the union of the sperm and the egg, but also killing the zygote after fertilization. These contraceptives, termed as abortifacients, prevent the progress of the pregnancy by creating an unsuitable environment for the zygote. As the Church teaches us, life begins at conception. Even our constitution tells us that the life of the unborn must be protected from conception (Article II, Section 12). To deliberately make the womb uninhabitable for the new life is to deliberately kill a person, a human being, even if it is just a tiny ball of cells. Examples of such contraceptives are “Morning-After” Pills or emergency contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), other hormonal contraceptives and the like. Other means of preventing pregnancy such as barrier contraceptives and direct sterilization, inhibit the meeting of the sperm and egg. While some may argue that this is perfectly fine since there is no “life” that is being killed in these methods, the Church still teaches us that these contraceptive methods are wrong. This is again based on the premise that the sexual act must always be open to the gift of life, as God has designed it to be.
We are entering a phase in our society where a culture of contraception is being promoted. People are being inculcated with the idea that it is okay to prevent pregnancy, to not be open to having a baby whenever they have sexual intercourse. But what happens when the contraceptives backfire? These people did not want to have the baby in the first place. But now, they’re burdened with this “problem”, this “nuisance”. What would then prevent them from having an abortion now? Mother Teresa of Calcutta tells us “…I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?“
Finally, it seems to me that people are now trying to change the perspective of the world regarding pregnancy. Have we become so jaded that we’re beginning to view pregnancy as a disease rather than a miracle? While it is true that pregnancy poses risks to the mother, would these risks be enough to outweigh the gift of life that it would bring?
The RH Bill actually has some good points which can address the problems regarding maternal health – to provide more skilled attendants for mothers by giving trainings and the like, to ensure quality emergency obstetric care to those who need it, to conduct maternal death reviews to see where the real problem lies. If we focus our efforts, attention and money into making sure that these services are delivered well instead of splitting our already meager resources with the other propositions of the bill, then we may actually be on the road to achieving MDG 5.
The Church is not against providing mothers with quality health care, nor is it disrespecting the rights of women. What it is against, though, is our unlawful ways of getting there. We cannot forget the life inside the womb while taking care of the person who “owns” the womb. That life, a he or a she, not an it, is still a life, a human being, made in the image and likeness of our Creator.
o Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI
o William’s Obstetrics, 23rd edition, Cunningham et al., (2010)
o Contraception, Why Not, Janet Smith
o Family Planning Survey, NSO, (2006)