Women activists flashmob to press Supreme Court to lift suspension of RH Law

ON THE eve of the International Women’s Day (IWD), women members of the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa staged a “flashmob” in front of the Supreme Court to call for the lifting of its order last year to indefinitely suspend the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.

They also urged the magistrates to junk the 14 petitions from several groups alleging as “unconstitutional” the RH Law, which prompted its temporary freezing by the high court, and described the anti-RH accusation as “absurd and obstructionist.”

Apparently to show that there is a popular opposition to RH Law, “the anti-RH zealots filed separate petitions, although they belong to basically the same dwindling groups of self-righteous bigots and ultra-conservatives,” SENTRO-Women said.

SENTRO-Women added that “indeed, ‘RH delayed, women’s rights denied’ as despite the historic enactment of RHL almost 15 months ago, its deferment has prevented the full carrying out of the badly needed maternal and infant care services, especially to the millions of mothers from urban shantytowns to remote rural villages.”

“This advocacy proves that the RH advocates are sincerely pro-life – not ‘pro-deaths’ as outlandishly claimed by the more extremist wing of the anti-RH camp – and certainly not ‘pro-abortion’ as the RH Law, in fact, explicitly declares that abortion is illegal and punishable by law,” Joanna Bernice Coronacion, SENTRO-Women spokesperson, explained.

Coronacion added that anti-RH fanatics might have twisted the RH Law provision that says that while abortion is a criminal offense, women who resorted to that procedure – with or without pressing reasons – will still be assisted by the government if they need care “for post-abortion complications (by treating and counseling them) in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.”

SENTRO-Women clarified that there is nothing sinister in the intention of this law of granting women full information on both the advantages and risks of contraceptives, natural and artificial family planning and responsible parenthood, thus providing them the freedom to choose and an unhampered access to appropriate reproductive and family planning methods that are medically safe and legal.

Even Pope Francis exhorted last September his colleagues in the Catholic Church hierarchy as well as the faithful to become more open-minded and compassionate by breaking the Church’s intolerant “obsession” with divorce, gays, contraception and abortion.

The broad pro-RH movement also reminded the obstinate critics of the RHL that this law had undertaken not less than 13 years of rigorous debates, researches and consultations with all stakeholders (women, medical or health sector, academe, religious, lawmakers, etc.) and was intensely discussed and scrutinized by the public, and endured as a mere bill or proposed law in four Philippine Congresses – from the 12th Congress (2001-2004) to the 15th Congress (2010-2013), where the RH bill finally became a law.

The merged version of the then RH bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate was passed on Dec. 19, 2012, and officially became a law – formally called Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 – when it was signed by President Aquino on Dec. 21, 2012.

But “well-coordinated and well-funded attacks” versus the RHL, as depicted by the pro-RH camp, soon followed, highlighted by the said petitions in the Supreme Court. On March 19, 2013, the court voting 10-5 issued a 120-day status quo ante order against RA 10354, meaning the law was suspended.

Before the expiration of the order in June, the court further postponed it to July last year, when the oral arguments from the contending parties were held at the Supreme Court. Since then, the case remains pending as the court en banc continued the status quo ante order and the Supreme Court has not yet decided on this case until now.

Meanwhile, the labor center SENTRO reiterated that the root of the rampant and worsening poverty is the unjust economic system where there is unjust distribution of wealth and the few rich are getting richer. But this situation affects women more adversely. Lacking access to their reproductive rights, they carry the added burden of unplanned pregnancies and the hidden costs of motherhood such as truncated or deferred education or career development.

At the same time, the oppressive patriarchal structures that consign women to gendered roles that keep them economically marginalized and politically subordinated, further aggravate the situation of women.

This problem, as well as the increasing incidence of maternal and infant deaths due to the absence or lack of adequate medical and family planning services, could be addressed by an effective RH law, SENTRO added.

Flash mob or flashmob is a term coined in 2003 and defined as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse.” From its original aims of “entertainment, satire and artistic expression,” flashmob has now been organized for political purposes, in the form of dances and other “creative” protest actions.

The IWD was first proposed by Clara Zetkin, a German feminist, socialist and trade unionist, in 1910 during a conference of the Second (Socialist) International in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was first held in 1911, mostly in several countries in Europe, and eventually observed every March 8 of each year throughout the world. It is also recognized by the United Nations.

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