Guess what? Sen. Tito Sotto said something infuriating again. In the past, he’s spoken poorly about single mothers, women who’ve been harassed by male companions, and trivialized unwanted touching while talking about the Safe Spaces Act. This time, he called abortion a greater crime against human rights than extrajudicial killings.
In a Viber message to reporters last Friday, Sotto went on a rant about the United Nations and western countries not having the “moral high ground” to tell the Philippine government what to do regarding “the so-called extrajudicial killings here.”
Why? He said, “[They] should tell us how many hundreds of thousands of babies they abort who are about to be born. Ano yun, walang rights?” (What about [the babies]? They have no rights?)
This statement came after the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to adopt an Iceland-led resolution last Thursday to review the human rights situation in the Philippines. This also explains why Pres. Rodrigo Duterte said Iceland doesn’t have crime and the people just eat ice. But I digress.
Let’s go back to unpacking Sen. Sotto’s statement. It’s no secret he is a staunch critic of the RH Law. When it was passed in 2016, he claimed he’s not anti-RH anymore because government officials “were able to remove the apprehensive provisions or issues there like abortion, population control, and abortifacients—it’s all for the good, especially for maternal health.”
But in hindsight, having access to safe abortion is part of ensuring maternal health and should be a basic human right. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, women and girls should be given the option to do it, especially if their pregnancy poses a threat to their health or will cause substantial pain and suffering. The latter includes pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.
The fear and disagreement surrounding abortion is mostly borne out of our country’s conservative, pro-life views. Catholic teachings would dictate that men and women are meant to procreate. Hence, creates the notion that women are mere baby-bearers, which is why we are often asked when we plan on having kids. Our society is stuck on the idea that bringing a child into this world is essential and not a choice to be made.
Another reason why people seem to be against abortion is the idea that a mother is killing a fully realized human being. In reality, these are still first trimester embryos, which are clumps of cells still in the process of developing. Most abortions are recommended during this period.
For example: Planned Parenthood noted that in the US, it’s usually done when a mother is four to 24 weeks pregnant. Those who opt for an abortion beyond 24 weeks most likely have a medical reason for it.
But what about the controversial “heartbeat bills” in some US states, which ban abortions when a heartbeat has been detected? According to Wired, embryos don’t have cardiovascular systems yet. OB-GYN Jennifer Kerns told the outlet that the rhythm being picked up by sonograms is “electrical activity,” not an actual heart since the embryo’s systems are still developing.
That said, we don’t understand why Sen. Sotto thinks aborting embryos is a heinous crime that he can put up against extrajudicial killings. Actual children are being shot in the Duterte administration’s drug war, and yet, the police just see them as collateral damage.
Just look at the case of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd Delos Santos: Three policemen shot Kian after he was suspected of being a drug courier who pointed a gun at them. The keyword here is “suspected”—he wasn’t taken in for a fair investigation or trial. CCTV footage showed he was shot twice in the head while he was on his knees.
That is just one side of the EJKs that have been happening in the country since 2016. There have been mini documentaries done on this, showing people being gunned down for merely being suspected drug pushers. Is Sen. Sotto blind or just willfully ignorant?
One thing’s for sure, though: Sotto won’t hesitate to demonize abortions and reproductive health rights to drive his misinformed point across. He is a senator, he should be aware of what is happening to Filipino citizens. But here we are being given the task of educating a man who is blinded by his own prejudices.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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