Senator Tito Sotto, based on evidence copied from Facebook, blogs and other similar sources, once more accuses several organizations and civil society leaders of promoting abortion. Nothing can be further from the truth.
The single biggest promoter of increased abortions in the Philippines is the anti-RH movement. It fanatically opposes family planning, post-abortion care and sexuality education – in the guise of being “pro life.” Yet these RH measures are critical to reducing abortions and saving lives.
Effective family planning minimizes unplanned pregnancies – the starting point of most women's decision to undergo an abortion. Humane post-abortion care reduces repeat abortions through counseling and immediate access to contraception. Sexuality education by trained schoolteachers cuts down teenagers' risky sexual behaviors.
Despite the loud and incessant proclamations that they are against abortion, anti-RH groups and politicians are actually not doing anything effective to reduce abortion. Talk is cheap. Reducing abortions requires hard work.
For example, during Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's long administration when the anti-RH movement had unprecedented powers and resources, GMA and her anti-RH allies failed miserably to reduce abortion. Data from the National Demographic and Health Surveys are damning. In 2008, after years of campaigning and hundreds of millions of pesos spent for natural family planning, less than 1% of married women reported using the method. From 1993 to 2008, teenage pregnancy rates rose steadily from 6.5 to 9.9 percent; yet, upon protests from anti-RH groups, the government quickly shelved its pilot program on sexuality education.
By stalling proven measures and imposing policies based solely on religious dogma, the anti-RH movement is responsible for the huge number of unplanned pregnancies among women and girls and the abortions that consequently occur.
While the exact number of induced abortions is unknown owing to its illegal status, proxy indicators point to a sizeable number. In the 2008 NDHS, 37% of all births – i.e., babies born, not counting those that did not make it to term delivery – were unplanned, which is equivalent to some 2,300 unplanned births* every day. A study done by the Guttmacher Institute counted 71,837 women hospitalized for abortion complications around the year 2000, and estimated the total number of abortions at that time at roughly 473,000 per year.
Whatever the exact number is, most abortions in the Philippines are preventable and could have been drastically reduced by programs mandated in the RH Bill. "Pro life" is a callous misnomer for those who drive women and girls to ignorance, unintended pregnancy, life-threatening abortions, inhumane post-abortion care, police harassment, social stigma, imprisonment and death.
* For the period 2005-2010, some 2.318 million births occurred annually, according to the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. Access their online database at http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/