The Reproductive Health Bill is now the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. While the measure has passed all legislative hurdles, the RH Law is now facing a predictable challenge in the Supreme Court. More predictably, the challenge comes from Catholic Church associates. While the intention behind the challenge is supposedly to protect the unborn, it is clear that if the goal of Catholics is to protect as many unborn children as possible, striking down the RH Law is just about the worst thing you can possibly do.
On the first working day of the year, January 2, James and Lovely-Ann Imbong filed a petition for the Supreme Court to nullify the recently passed bill. “In behalf” of their minor children, the Imbongs also name their two offspring as petitioners. As has been pointed out, the “Imbong” name should be very familiar because the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has Jo Imbong, mother of James, as its lawyer. Also, James Imbong is the first nominee of the CBCP-backed Ang Pro-Life Party-List, which claims to represent not the Church, but OFWs. Try to stop yourself from laughing; it gets better. The CBCP has come out to state that they are in no way involved with the petition against the RH Law. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that their counsel’s relation to the petitioners was “purely incidental.”
Reason and Science of Contraception
It is typical for conservative Catholics to equivocate the RH Law with abortion. On the contrary, the availability of contraception diminishes the number of abortions. The logic is simple: people who use contraception want to prevent pregnancy resulting from particular sexual encounters. They can choose to have children from later coital acts by stopping the use of contraceptives. By reducing the number of pregnancies of people who do not want to be pregnant, the number of unwanted pregnancies decreases. Since unwanted pregnancies are the targets of chemical and surgical abortion, less unwanted pregnancies means less induced abortions. After all, why would you willfully abort a wanted pregnancy? Consistent and proper use of contraceptives therefore ensures that a pregnancy that does occur is wanted and planned instead of unwanted and by chance.
But, let’s not rely on pure reason and let some empiricism enlighten us. A four-year study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis came out last year to show that when free contraceptives were provided to a community, abortions decreased. It should be noted that from their study, most women (75%) chose to have “long-acting” contraceptives such as IUDs instead of pills, which must be taken daily. They found that abortions in St. Louis, Missouri, where the study was conducted, dropped by 20%, while the rest of Missouri’s abortion rates remained steady.
This result, however, is not enough to show that opposition to the RH Law will result in more abortions.
Intelligently Designed Abortion
Abortion is an unavoidable fact of pregnancy. Spontaneous abortions are more politely called “miscarriages,” but the essence is the same for either spontaneous or induced abortion—pregnancy ends and a fertilized embryo fails to develop into a child. Catholics would argue that the embryo is already a person and intentionally inducing abortion is murder. Miscarriages, then, would be accidental death. It turns out, however, that as much as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. This estimate includes the great number of pregnancies that were never even noticed because the embryos were spontaneously aborted so early. That means, for any sexual act that successfully results in a fertilized embryo (which Catholics believe are people), 50% of all of these “people” will die. If the Christian God is anti-abortion, it’s hard to imagine greater hypocrisy.
The main mechanism of contraceptives is to prevent the meeting of sperm and egg altogether, meaning no embryo is formed. The opposition of the Church against condoms should have been a dead giveaway that their concern is sex and not unborn children. Chemical contraceptives, like the pill, prevent the meeting of sperm and egg through various means, such as by slowing down the transport of the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. But, even if a drug were specifically designed to prevent the implantation of a fertilized embryo (which is supposedly a person), its users would not rival the number of abortive events caused by well-meaning couples wanting to get pregnant. That’s not a strong enough statement. All the induced abortions performed in the world (over 470,000 in the Philippines according to 2000 data from the Guttmacher Institute), cannot even begin to compete with spontaneous abortions.
The Department of Health reported that there were 1,700,000 live births in 2000. If that is just 50% of all successful pregnancies, then that means there were also 1,700,000 embryos naturally aborted, or over three times the number of induced abortions in the same year. Therefore, if many pregnancies are prevented altogether through contraception, there will be less abortions. Thus, the Catholic plan of “openness” to pregnancy is tantamount to “openness” to spontaneous abortion. In contrast, a couple with no plans of ever conceiving risks no abortions. Comparatively, a couple that plans each pregnancy with contraceptives, and does not haphazardly sire dozens of kids, will not abort as many embryos as the well-meaning Catholic couple.
Accessories to Murder
If you want to avoid abortion altogether, the best way is not to have kids. If you want kids, you will risk having an abortion, whether or not you know about it. That is a fact we must accept as a nation. If you want to risk the least number of abortions, then you will need to plan your pregnancies and use contraception.
If you have as many kids as you want, you will abort just as many. It’s statistics. And if you want to kill as many unborn as possible, go a step further like the Imbongs and deny Filipinos the right to access to contraceptives.
The use of the Imbongs’ children in the petition, despite their being incapable to consent, is consistent with anti-RH values, since the Imbongs (and the Church) claim to represent children and the unborn in their crusade against reproductive rights. And in this crusade, they are not shy to employ the bloody imagery associated with the Catholic Church’s own medieval Crusades. About President Aquino’s signing of the RH Bill, Batangas Archbishop Ramon Arguelles compared him to the Connecticut shooter who killed 20 schoolchildren because the RH Law would supposedly kill millions. But, we can see from the scientific evidence that it is not contraception, and not even induced abortion, that will lead to the most aborted embryos—it is the Church’s anti-contraceptive dogma. If abortion is murder, the Imbongs are accessories, and the Catholic Church is the killer.