Abortion, Contraception, and the RH Bill
The RH Bill does not legalize abortion. Abortion is a crime under the Penal Code and it will remain so. Read the bill and see for yourself.
Contraceptive pills do not induce abortions. They prevent or delay ovulation. They take effect before conception, not after. If there’s no conception, there’s no abortion.
Pro-life groups argue that contraceptive pills prevent implantation (the fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus) and they equate this with abortion. Both regular contraception and emergency contraception do not prevent implantation.
The pill, when used correctly, is more than 99% effective. Natural family planning methods typically have a 24% failure rate.1 More than half of the Philippines’ 3.4 million pregnancies are unintended and 92% of them occur to women who either use no method or use a traditional method. Unwanted pregnancies result in 560,000 risky illegal abortions a year.2 Providing the pill to women who want it (and only to those who want it, because the RH bill does not force any particular family planning method on anyone) will actually reduce the number of abortions in the country.
Contraceptive pills aren’t used just for preventing pregnancy. The pill is basically hormone therapy and is used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including seizures, severe dysmenorrhea (which is extremely painful and even forces some women to miss work/school during their monthly periods), endometriosis (which untreated can lead to infertility), and that’s just to name a few. Some pills lower the risk of certain diseases, including a number of cancers. Scientists even say that nuns should be on the pill, because women who never bear children are more likely to develop breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.
Like any other kind of medication, the pill may have side effects, especially depending on your medical history (pre-existing health conditions, sensitivity to certain medications, etc.) and lifestyle (e.g. smoking while on the pill increases risk of heart attack), which is why you see a doctor before going on the pill and see your doctor regularly. This World Health Organization document on the Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use summarizes the risks and benefits of various methods of artificial contraception, including the pill. The RH bill is important because it will empower women and families to make informed decisions on which method is best for them. With the guidance of a competent medical professional and with proper use, artificial contraceptives can have enormous benefits and minimal risks.
The medical risks connected with contraceptives are infinitely lower than the risks of an actual pregnancy and everyday activities. As Rep. Edcel Lagman points out, you’re more likely to die from riding a car than you are to die from taking the pill. The risk of dying within a year of riding a car is 1 in 5,900, while the risk of dying within a year of using pills is 1 in 200,000. The worldwide risk of dying from a pregnancy is 1 in 10,000, but in the Philippines the risk is an alarming 1 in 100.
The CBCP and other pro-life groups have been deliberately spreading misinformation about the content of the RH Bill and the actual effects of contraceptives. (How is lying to protect “morality” moral?) They use dubious sources/outdated data or misinterpret/misrepresent scientific findings to support their claims. (As a friend pointed out, “[This] is like saying seat belts are ineffective since people die from car accidents anyway, yet no one accuses it or any other safety/precautionary tool as existing solely to push a moral-political agenda.”) Between the World Health Organization and the CBCP, the WHO is a much more credible authority on the facts. I’m sure Batman would agree.
1 Ponzetti, J.J. and Hoefler S. “Natural family planning: A review and assessment,” Family and Community Health 1988)
2 Guttmacher Institute and UP Population Institute “Meeting Women’s Contraceptive Needs in the Philippines” 2009