Sanchez: Abortion, the poor and the needy

THERE are no two ways about it. Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, criminalized no less by the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines since the 1930 and continues to this day.

Articles 256, 258 and 259 of the Code mandate imprisonment for the woman who undergoes the abortion, and any person who assists in the procedure, be they woman’s parents, a physician or midwife.

Article 258 further imposes a higher prison term on the woman or her parents if the abortion is undertaken “to conceal [the woman’s] dishonor.”

That’s pretty clear, and the Constitution and the Code are both ironclad about it. There can be Roe versus Wade, Philippine style, as ruled by the US Supreme Court.

There is nothing in our legal system that upholds a woman’s right to abortion until “viability,” defined as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid,” adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 week.

It would be hard to second guess what the Philippine Supreme Court would decide. At this point, it would be a pointless debate on “what if.”

Of course, it’s possible that the SC will declare the RH Law unconstitutional. But what if the SC rules otherwise?

So if the Supreme Court declares RH constitutional, Msgr. Victorino Rivas said the Diocese of Bacolod says it won’t bear and grin it, because RH “will potentially lead to abortion.”

The Diocese will exert extra effort to educate the people to disobey the law. It will launch a campaign down to the grassroots by shunning health centers and availing of contraceptives.

“Potential” is of course not “actual.” Just as a life mired in poverty can potentially lead to a life in crime. However, poverty could just as well push a poor person to do good for society.

Just ask Efren Peñaflorida, the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. Once bullied by gangs in high school, Efren offers Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. “Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as nine years old,” says Peñaflorida. “They are all victims of poverty.”

So while the Diocese of Bacolod holds a prayer vigil on April 7 for the guidance of the SC justices on the RH Law, may it also uphold Pope Francis’s social justice including a “robust defense of the poor” when they go to the grassroots.

When our clergy go to campaign to the grassroots, may they not limit themselves to RH issues and strengthen what Pope Francis said he wanted to see, “a Church that is poor and for the poor.”

May they focus on Pope Francis’s injunction on social justice and human rights: “We have to search for equality of opportunities and rights, to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, (that) here should be no have-nots.”

May our clergy live their commitment to those who are hungry, homeless, the street people, the imprisoned, and those who are marginalized and spiritually “lost.”

When our clergy live and work with the poor, may they “smell like the [poor] sheep” to which they minister.



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