Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Babies and battle-cries

Time: 10 pm. People involved: around 15 chatters,
mostly Americans.Place: The Abortion Debate room.
“I don’t know why I have to be a life-support system
for some baby!”
Those are the words of an American woman—thirty-
something, I believe, though her exact age escapes
me now. A few people are engaged in a conversation
about the issue of abortion, which is the usual
topic in this chatroom. I stay for about half an
hour, then leave when I’ve had enough of lines that
betray an ignorance of medical procedures (“...oh
c’mon, an abortion is perfectly safe...”) and a
scornful sentiment towards unborn babies (“would you
let another person get the nutrients from your body
if you didn’t want him in the first place?”).
Seeing how other people think about such a delicate
matter gives me a jolt. What’s even more disen-
chanting is that it won’t be long before such ideas
are vehemently expressed by fellows on our shores.
And why not? It’s always like that—be they trends in
music, fashion, television programming...you name it.
Very little filtering takes place as far as things
coming from the U S of A are concerned, and the
underlying dictum seems to be “if it’s from the
States, it must be good.”
Well, Americans did introduce us to some pretty good
things, I’ll give them that. They brought in the
concept of democracy after the locals saw the end
of 300 years under Spanish rule. A democratic form of
administration was a welcome change, considering the
slave-like existence of indios that three centuries
of subjugation by the Spanish government had led to.
We also have the Yankees to thank for changes in the
realm of education, yet another development in our
society. They basically established formal education
as we know it today. Then they provided opportunities
that enabled Filipinos then to enjoy the benefits of
books, blackboards and classroom discussions without
having to go abroad. Following the landing of
American troops was that of schoolteachers, who
taught the intricacies of language, literature,
mathematics and science, among others, to young minds.
Clearly, good things have come from the West, and the
“Land of the free” will continue to churn out new
inventions, be they material products of technology
or intangible signs of authentic human development.
But as in any society where progress is constantly
being pursued from all directions, detrimental conse-
quences of this pursuit have emerged in the West as
well. Then, in recent decades, someone came up with
the saying that when the
United States sneezes, the
whole world catches a cold. To a certain extent, that
may be true, but there is such a thing as building up
resistance. And based on what’s been happening in our
society in recent years, some people are welcoming
the germs with open arms—and many of them don’t even
know it.
Take the case of ideas. A fervent “I don’t know why I
have to be a life-support system for some baby!” may
sound too extreme for our sensibilities for now, but
then so did the idea of divorce several years ago.
“We’re a Catholic country; divorce will never be
approved here,” I recall a neighbor casually dis-
missing the growing concern over the issue. That was
in 1999 when I told her about the proposed bill that
some congressman had come up with. The notion of
divorce being legalized in our country came as a
shock to many, but it seems that time (and subtle
brainwashing) has a way of softening the shock value
of anything abhorrent. The folly of divorce event-
ually came to the fore, though, prompting the
proposed bill to be shelved.
Then there was the idea of making abortion legal in
cases of “defective” babies. By the way, I did not
choose that word myself; it was yet another congress-
man—the author of a bill proposing the legalization
of abortion—who referred to mentally and physically
handicapped babies as “defective.” (Makes a baby
sound like an appliance, doesn’t it? Besides, who
among us is without defects? Let him cast the
first...abortifacient down a pregnant woman’s throat.)
What rationale provided the basis of the bill? The
fact that all children deserve to be loved, and the
assertion that “defective” babies are better off dead
than raised by a presumably “unloving” mother. Of
course, the author didn’t state it that way. The
ideas were the same, but the language was diplomatic,
more pleasing due to gentle words blanketed with a
tone of compassion.
Then here comes another proposed measure, a bill
trumpeted by some sectors as precisely what women
need, the answer to our woes. It supposedly gives
women the power of self-determination (now who
wouldn’t want that?), the freedom to decide what they
want to do with their body (hold your breath—we’re
not talking about choices between Swedish massages
and seaweed wraps here), and—even for girls as young
as 13 years—easy access to all reproductive health
care services.
The better-informed individuals and groups know why
any principle, program or policy that endorses
“reproductive health care” (which is receiving much
support in the
United States) actually spells
disaster for women. They also understand why this
whole campaign for “reproductive health care” ought
to be opposed with everything short of fire and brim-
stone. No, those calling for a more responsive and
responsible health care program for women aren’t
being paranoid or emotional; they are simply aware of
some things such as: first, “reproductive health care
services” covers all birth control devices and
services INCLUDING ABORTION; and second, women are
kept in the dark by the government about the damaging
effects (and sometimes fatal consequences) of using
contraceptives. How then is this to be called a
health care program for women when it endangers
precisely the health of women?
“The right to decide” and “it’s my body, it’s my
choice”—concepts and sentiments woven into the pro-
posed bill on reproductive health care—may sound
liberating, even brilliant. And such phrases have
been made battle-cries too often on the streets of
America—battle-cries demanding not the right to vote,
not the freedom to obtain an education, but the
license to kill growing babies. Only, it’s not
supposed to be considered murder because the baby
hasn’t made it outside his mom’s body yet.
Are these the ideas that we allow to enter our
society, our homes, our minds? Do we even let a
simple phrase like “pro-choice” muddle the issue and
lead us to think that protecting unborn children is
an anti-choice thing?
These days, most of the crucial choices lie in
selecting which ideas from the West to accept, which
to modify and which to reject outright. Enough of
that “if it’s from the States, it must be good!”
mentality. Go ahead and gobble down that Big Mac,
lace up those cross-trainers, hang on to that Palm
Pilot—no problem. But the moment “I don’t know why I
have to be a life-support system for some baby!”
begins to sound a little acceptable to you, you’ve
just caught a cold after a mighty sneeze from
the West.
Okay, now who wants to be infected next?

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