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SAN BEDA COLLEGE - MANILA

COLLEGE OF LAW
SAN BEDA LAW - HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
SBL - HRA DEBATE CUP 2016

MOTION: LET IT BE RESOLVED THAT THE RIGHT TO ACCESS SAFE AND LEGAL
ABORTION IS A HUMAN RIGHT

POSITION PAPER FOR THE NEGATIVE SIDE

GENERAL AND QUARTER FINAL ROUND


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In developing countries, millions of people are suffering from health problems


which are almost avoidable for the reason of poverty. Some of such dilemma
are infectious diseases, malnutrition, and complications of childbirth where it
is a maternal problem specifically arises in the said countries. 1 Despite the
decline of maternal mortality between the years 1990 and 2015 by 44%,
such problem has still been challenging to the health of the motherly bears.
In 2015, 303,000 mothers died from pregnancy-related causes and millions
more suffered from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth,
including hemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders and obstructed
labor.2

The stance of society towards Legal Abortion remains disarrayed. As people


consider life as sacred and therefor condemn the practice of abortion,
socioeconomic conditions of people, especially those living in Third World
nations, would suggest otherwise. It is the responsibility of the State to
1 Population Reference Bureau. (2004.) Improving the health of the worlds poorest
country. Retrieved from http://www.prb.org/pdf04/improvingtheHealthbrief_Eng.pdf
2 Maternal and child. (n.d.) Retrieved from
http://www.one.org/international/issues/maternal-and-child-health/)
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improve, maintain, and uphold the welfare of the people, and legal abortion
may be considered as a means for them to fulfill such responsibility.

The

issue now arises here: Should the access to legal and safe abortion be
considered human right?

This side affirms the negative, for the access to safe and legal abortion is not
necessary, not beneficial, nor is it practical for pregnant women, especially
those living in the third world developing countries. To further substantiate
this argument, this negative side shall present how legal abortion as a
human right will not be of relevance or importance to pregnant women in the
Philippines with respect to the exercise of their human rights, within the
context of the health sector and the socioeconomic conditions of society.

I.

NON-NECESSITY

MEDICAL ASPECT
Most cases of abortion are deeply rooted in fetal anomalies. Through a
landmark case (K.L. v Peru) where a 17-year-old Peruvian girl was allowed by
the state to undergo abortion due to prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly 3, the
option of resorting to abortion in the event doomed pregnancies has been
justified. Moreover, medical findings on the lethal effects of pregnancy
complications brought by fetal anomalies also convinced expecting mothers
to

choose

abortion

over

other

medical

procedures.

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned circumstances, the negative bench


still holds onto the notion that abortion should not be a human right for three
3 Karen Noelia Llantoy Huamn v. Peru, Communication No. 1153/2003, U.N. Doc.
CCPR/C/85/D/1153/2003 (2005).

reasons: first, fetal anomalies can be prevented or treated through proper


maternal care; second, the sanctity of the childs life shall always prevail;
third, safe abortion still poses a higher risk on the pregnant womans
health.
A. Early Prevention and Treatment for Fetal Anomalies
Based on statistics, the proportion [of] choosing abortion [is] varied by
severity of the fetal anomaly.4 A study then reveals that there is a very high
termination rate after prenatal diagnosis of the following fetal defects: Down
syndrome (92%), spina bifida (64%), anencephaly (84%), Turner syndrome
(72%), and Klinefelter syndrome (58%). The findings show how easily a
pregnant woman can decide to undergo abortion without resorting to other
medical procedures.5
In fact, the five conditions mentioned can be treated through proper
medication. For example, surgery within 48 hours of birth can be done to the
baby if he suffers from spina bifida. Future medical care for spina bifida
includes physical therapy under an orthopaedic and regular observation by a
urologist. In case of Down syndrome, there has been no treatment yet as of
4 Grimes, D. A. (2016, February 1). United Nations Committee Affirms Abortion as a
Human Right. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Huffington Post - The Blog:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-a-grimes/united-nations-committee-affirmsabortion-as-a-human-right_b_9020806.html
5 Mansfield, C., Hopfer, S., & Marteau, T. (1999). Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis
of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a
systematic literature review. European Concerted Action: DADA (Decision-making After the
Diagnosis of a fetal Abnormality). 808-812.

today. However, a child diagnosed with such illness still has almost the same
capacity as that of a normal child.6
B. State Policy in Protecting the Unborn
Another reason why some pregnant women opt to undergo abortion
upon learning the defect of the child in their womb is that they already
assume that the infected child will not survive before giving birth to it, or if
otherwise, the infected child will still suffer from the complications and will
eventually die. This is what we call the assumption of imminent death.
The concept of assumption of imminent death is immoral. It violates
the provision of the 1987 Constitution, particularly Art II, Sec. 12 which
provides for an equal protection of the life of the mother and the life of the
unborn from conception. The state, through the Constitution, values the
sanctity of a childs life. Therefore, legalizing abortion (regardless if it is safe
or not) is contrary to the law of the land and to the values which the state
upholds.
C. Abortion Complications
Lastly, the safety of the mother undergoing safe abortion is not
guaranteed.

Abortion,

although

done

safely,

still

produces

medical

6 Richard B. Johnston, J. (2005). 9 Birth Defects and Their Symptoms and Treatments.
Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Parents Magazine:
http://www.parents.com/baby/health/birth-defects/birth-defects-symptoms-treatments/

complications. About 30% of abortion cases is followed by the occurrence


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a serious infection which may lead to infertility. 7
Procedures in abortion can lead to severe internal bleeding and cervical
damage (dilated cervix and scraped uterus). Abortions can also cause
complications in later pregnancies like miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies
due to weakened cervix and uterus.8

LEGAL ASPECT
Every person has an inherent right to life, liberty, and property. The state,
through the constitution, guarantees that those inherent rights are being
safeguarded, that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, and property,
without due process of law. With regard to the right to liberty, the right to
privacy can be exercised. It now follows person will the capability to choose
or decide over a matter related to affairs in his private life.
This concept of privacy becomes controversial on the legalization of
abortion for rape-related pregnancies. In Roe v Wade, the Court ruled that
the constitutional right to privacy includes a womans decision whether or

7 Willke, J. C., Willke, B. H., Davis, J. J., & Reardon, D. C. (2015). Fact #11: Abortion is more
dangerous than childbirth. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Abortion Facts:
http://www.abortionfacts.com/facts/11#9
8 Luke, B. (2002). Every Pregnant Woman's Guide to Preventing Premature Birth. New York:
Crown.

not to terminate her pregnancy. However such right is not absolute - it is only
during the first trimester of the pregnancy that the woman can claim her
fundamental right to abortion. This ruling failed to dwell on the right to life
argument; however, the Court, by regulating abortion, assures that it is still
the states interest to protect the potentiality of human life. 9 This argument
on right to privacy was also reiterated in the case of Doe v Bolton.10
The negative bench observed that the ruling in the two cases favors on
the right of the mother. Legalizing abortion on the basis of a womans right
to privacy is absurd because it belittles the right of the unborn to live. The
ruling clearly neglects the idea that the sanctity of a childs life should
always prevail. Even if the child is bore out of rape, it should not carry the
burden of the consequence of the crime.
Furthermore, abortion constitutes an act of violence through the
removal of a fetus before its delivery. Murder, on the other hand, is also an
act of violence by killing a person without justification. More or less, abortion
is similar to murder. So, if abortion can be a legal act, why not legalize
murder, too? What makes the act of violence in abortion different from the
act of violence in murder? Is it because it is more immoral for an individual to
kill the living than the unborn? The state has to consider that in protecting
life, it must be equally given to the living and to the unborn.
9 Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973)
10 Doe v. Bolton, 410 US 179 (1973)
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II. NON-BENEFICIALITY
Presuming that abortion promotes womens health care by reducing
the risk of acquiring complications from doomed pregnancies is erroneous. It
is already verified from medical findings that the health of a woman
undergoing abortion, even if the purpose is to remove the infected fetus from
the womb, is still at high risk for serious medical problems. The continuous
occurrence of abortion complications only guarantees that abortion cannot
be done in a safe manner, or, to be precise, that risks in abortion cannot be
totally diminished but only partially reduced, with the danger of being
exposed to its complications still present.
In the case of rape-related pregnancies, the decision of continuing the
pregnancy will be beneficial not only to the mother for avoiding the
additional risk from the procedures of the abortion, but also to the unborn for
giving it a chance to live. The victims of rape who do not want to take
responsibility of the child may transfer its custody to the government
through social work agencies or to an orphanage. The children bore out of
rape can be beneficial in the future for if they reach the age of maturity, they
contribute to the work force which is vital for the growth of economic
condition of the country.
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III. IMPRACTICABILITY
Need for a Developed Maternal Health Care
Abortion must not be considered as an answer to doomed pregnancies.
Through early diagnosis, in-depth screening options, and prenatal tests, fetal
anomalies can be prevented. But if theres a failure in employing preventive
measures, birth defects can still be treated through surgery and proper
medications. Following these steps, the doomed fetus chance of living can
still be realized. The better solution for problems in pregnancy must be a
developed maternal health care.
It has to be emphasized that maternal health care is vital to the
condition of the child. The need for more improved medical technologies and
medications is very crucial in order to control the occurrence of fetal
anomalies. Unfortunately, the Philippines failed to achieve the target
improvements on maternal health care for 2015. It was entirely caused by
the lack of access to reproductive health service, inadequate prenatal care
system, substandard medical equipments, and lack of advancements in the
forms of medication.11

11 Lavado, R. F., Lagrada, L. P., Ulep, V. G., & Tan, L. M. (2010). Who Provides Good Quality
Prenatal Care in the Philippines? PIDS Discussion Paper Series , 1-18.

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Based on reports, more than half of births in the Philippines happened


at home, usually done in the manner of hilot, a traditional delivery method.
Poverty and costly hospital fees set a struggle for poor women to give a
normal birth delivery with an aid of a skilled midwife and proper medical
equipment.

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With regard to prenatal care system, there exists a disparity in

the quality of prenatal care received by women living in the urban area and
by women living in remote regions. Income distribution also sets an
inequality in receiving good quality of prenatal care. 13 Again, because of the
geographical setting of the Philippines, there are still provinces where there
are still no facilities for birth delivery. On the other hand, those facilities
already established only have second-hand, and sometimes dilapidated,
medical equipments.
In measuring the quality of maternal health care, maternal mortality
ratio as well as child death rate are needed to be observed. Save the
Children, an international humanitarian organization that advocates for
childrens rights and provides charity work and sponsorship to combat child
poverty14, released a report showing that there is a significant decrease in

12 UNDP. (2013). Improve maternal health - Where we are? Retrieved March 12, 2016, from
UNDP in the Philippines:
http://www.ph.undp.org/content/philippines/en/home/mdgoverview/overview/mdg5.html
13 Rogan, S. E., & Olvena, M. R. (2004). Factors Affecting Maternal Health Utilization in the
Philippines. 1-12.

14 Save the Children. (2015). What We Do - Advocacy. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Save
the Children : https://www.savethechildren.net/advocacy

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the child death rate from 25 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012 to 20
deaths in 2015. In contrary, the number of pregnancy- or childbirth-related
deaths continues to increase. In May 2014, the World Health Organization
(WHO) declared that the maternal mortality [in the Philippines] is
unacceptably high. Poor pregnant women, who have extremely felt the
adverse impact of the poor health care system, blamed the Philippine
Government for the insufficient allocation of funds for the health sector.
Unfortunately, Save the Children also agreed to their sentiment. It is proven
by the inequality of newborn deaths between the poorest and wealthiest
households. 15
It cannot be denied that the economic status of a state is a
determining indicator in the quality of its maternal health care. However, it
does not follow that not all rich states perform well on health sector; let
Norway and the United States be the example. State of the Worlds Mothers
uses the tool called Mothers Index that uses data showing the performance
of a state with regard to womens and childrens health. Based on the 2015
index, Norway is the top-performing state with a very high performance
scores on the health category as well as on the education and economic
sector. Norway has a significantly low infant mortality rate, and only 1 in 188

15 Santos, M. (2014, August 22). Child death rate now lower, but maternal mortality
up. Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Inquirer.net:
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/631866/child-death-rate-now-lower-but-maternalmortality-up
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Norwegian women can probably experience miscarriage 16. On the other


hand, the United States only ranks 33rd according to the index. With a child
death rate of 6.9 per 1,000 live births, and 1 in 1,800 risk of maternal death,
the United States is declared as the worst performing developed country. As
observe, urban inequity is a key factor in such a low performance. Urban
child survival gaps between rich and poor families are evident in some U.S.
cities.17

16 Save the Children. (2015). The Urban Disadvantage - State of the World's
Mothers 2015. Farfield. CT: Save the Children Federation, Inc.
17 Dockterman, E. (2015, May 5). U.S. Ranks Worst Developed Country for Maternal Health.
Retrieved March 12, 2016, from Time: http://time.com/3847755/mothers-children-healthsave-the-children-report/

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