Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Power to Choose

photo found via google. i don't know who took it, sorry!

I am a Christian. I have been raised and educated as a devout Catholic and am fairly active in my church. But I am also a doctor, and this is one issue where my personal beliefs and dogma and I do not see eye to eye.

And I agree that it's past time that a Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines was passed - and executed.

It's a delayed reaction to a fairly dated issue, but I felt so strongly about the topic that I couldn't resist.

I am pro-choice but I do not believe in induced abortions. This is something that I, as a doctor, would never do for any patient. But what I don't understand is the mass hysteria being drummed up by about the issue of artificial means of contraception.

Just reading the statistics alone is already quite convincing. The Philippines is among #15 in Asia with the highest maternal mortality rates - the top causes of which are hemorrhage and abortion, of which a significant number are induced. Many of these deaths are preventable - by adequate nutrition, proper spacing between pregnancies, and, yes, even limiting family size.

How is teaching the largely ignorant populace about responsible parenthood and providing them with means to practice it an affront to the dignity of life? How does seeing the logic behind a smaller family size and wanting to prevent unplanned pregnancies make those of us who are for this bill akin to murderers?

There are those who feel that sex education, education about artificial contraceptive methods, and providing free access to artificial contraceptives somehow encourages a culture of promiscuity. Frankly, I think this argument is flawed on several levels, not the least of which is that it seriously undermines the people that they are seeking to protect. Besides this, the reality is that, despite our largely conservative-leaning society, increasing sexual activity among the young and unmarried is actually quite prevalent and has been for some time. Turning a blind eye to this reality and sticking our head in the sand will not make it go away.

I think, that for me as a doctor, the most convincing argument for family planning, responsible parenthood, and sex education was working in the OB Admitting Section every three days for several weeks as a medical student, then as an intern.

The concept of a woman having more than 3 kids for me simply boggles the mind, but there I saw countless grand multiparas (women who have given birth more than 5 times) reaching their status before the age of 30, already on baby number 6 or 7. I'd had to assist at emergency hysterectomies for these women with overused uteruses that refused to contract after delivery, causing them to bleed and bleed and threatening to leave their many children motherless.

On the other end of the spectrum were the young primis - the youngest in my experience was 14, just in her first year of high school, who never had a single pre-natal consult prior to delivery. I can't imagine what kind of parenting these young girls can offer their babies, not when they were hardly out of childhood themselves and were now forced to grow up much too soon.

And then there were the women who came in for induced abortions that were not completed, septic, bleeding, and often on the brink of death. It was both fascinating and appalling how creative and innovative some of these very desperate women would be in trying to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, turning to methods ranging from the sedate to the bizarre. Some are lucky enough to make it through. Some are not.

Do I believe passing the Reproductive Health Act will change the stories of the women who I've talked about above? Maybe, maybe not. But let's not lose sight of the fact that in the end, no one but the couples themselves can dictate what they do in their bedroom, in their sex life, and in their family lives. No one can argue with that. Isn't it then only right that they are given the chance to make informed choices?


Panaderos said...

I agree with your views 100%. Better late than never but we do need a sensible planned parenthood program in the country. By voicing its opposition, the Church is simply being true to its God. However, politicians and government leaders owe it to the people to look at this issue objectively and free from undue influence from religious and political organizations. The nation's ability to survive and prosper is at stake here.

Em Dy said...

Like you, I am a Catholic doctor too. I also do not believe in induced abortion. But I have seen enough childbirth complications during training that I think for some people contraception, natural or artificial, would be a wise choice.

dr_clairebear said...

i've always thought that the position of the government on this issue has always been wishy-washy for no solid reason, excpet perhaps fear of the political fall out with the Catholic Church.

I agree with Panaderos - the Church has its position and its position is just being true to its teachings. But there is no sense for government to follow this hard-line position when the facts support the need for a reproductive health bill in the Philippines.

Manggy said...

Oh, I totally agree. I think whatever culture that has been dominating our society so far has instead resulted in more people being naive and stupid about reproductive health, and a whole lot more people being "pilyo", "malisyoso" and such. It's time to grow up. Whatever we're used to has not been good to the women of our country.

iris said...

i couldn't agree with you more. i think one of the reasons why this is such a hoolabaloo is that sex ed is still taboo in the country.

religion has always been and will always be a factor. or rather, the church is, not so much religion. ewan ko ba, i think it's really just the people running the scene that's having such a distorted view on these things.

hope you don't mind me reposting a bit of your article on my site so people can read it :)

dr_clairebear said...

@manggy: i think it also adds to the problem that Filipina women feel the need to be a certain "type" of person - and a decent girl just doesn't, DOESN'T talk about sex. seriously. they may do it, but they'd never ASK about it.

@iris: sure, sis! anytime. :) the thing that really irks me most is that the religion card is pulled for all the wrong reasons - mainly to make sure that the right party gets an endorsement during the next elections. it just sucks!