This letter I sent to Inquirer appeared last March 26. The debates continue.
The stand of the Inquirer regarding the Reproductive Health Law is very well known. During the debates on the passage of the RH bill, again and again the Inquirer defended the bill in its editorials. Now that the Supreme Court has put on hold its implementation, the Inquirer criticized the decision (“Lives are at stake,” 3/21/13).
The editorial stated: “Depending on which source one uses, there may be as many as 14 mothers who die in the Philippines every day, from preventable pregnancy problems or complications from unsafe abortions. The RH Law was designed first and foremost to lower maternal mortality, by providing pregnant women, especially those who cannot afford it, adequate maternal care, and preventing the need for abortions. If we assume that because of the law’s suspension, at least one woman who could have been helped by it has instead passed away, we cannot escape the tragic conclusion: Many, many women will die from the high court’s leisurely approach to a life-or-death issue.”
It seems that the reasoning here is as follows: The RH Law provides mothers, especially the poor, with care. Now that the application of the law is suspended, this care for mothers will not be given. Assuming that the care that can be provided by implementing the law can save at least one mother from death every day, so then its non-implementation translates into many deaths and more as each day passes.
The reasoning seems plausible, but a little bit of thought will reveal that certain assumptions behind the argument’s reasoning are questionable.
The argument assumes that the law will effectively prevent maternal deaths. The argument also assumes that without the RH Law, maternal care is not given to mothers, especially the poor. I think these assumptions are too simplistic. We do not know if the RH Law will really prevent maternal deaths. That is a conjecture or a hypothesis that still has to be proven. There are many factors that lead to maternal deaths. Even when enough care is given to mothers, death can still and does occur. Also, even without the RH Law, mothers, even poor mothers, can seek medical attention with the help of their families. There are ways of doing this and I think the RH Law is not indispensable.
Moreover, the editorial seems to put the responsibility of these deaths on the high court by connecting these deaths to the high court’s decision on the RH Law. I think that the connection between the court’s decision and the death of a mother on this day or the next is rather remote and thus the justices cannot be held liable. Besides, I don’t think the justices intended the death of any mother. They have their reasons for suspending the implementation of the law and we’ll have to be patient and study them. In a democratic society we ought to allow due process to run its course.