The color purple: Why I believe in the RH law
It was a drizzly Tuesday on August 6, 2013. I zigzagged through the pothole-laden streets of Taft Avenue to Padre Faura in Manila. From afar, I could see the Likhaan women--clad in their purple shirts with placards in hand--ready to fight the seemingly uphill battle for Reproductive Health rights for Filipina Women in dire need.
While still based in Los Angeles, I came across a New York Times article about a Filipina mother of 7 purposely throwing herself down a flight of stairs hoping to induce abortion.
That was my rallying point. I searched the internet for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Philippines that helped women to access Reproductive Health.
I reached out to Likhaan on January of 2012 via their email address on their website. I presented myself as one of their crusaders and allies for reproductive health rights.
Advocating for RH law
Likhaan does 3 basic services. They run five women's clinics in poor communities around Metro Manila and two provinces in the Visayas. They organize and assist women and young people in these communities to address their problems and advocate for changes in the mindset and policies focusing on women's health, including maternal health, contraception, abortion, sexuality-related problems and gender-based violence.
Anyone can help them by volunteering in any of the programs, by either contributing funds and logistics (books, clinical equipment and supplies, etc), or help in promoting their work. They are a grassroots collective of women and men who are dedicated to the movement for reproductive justice.
Tuesday’s rally was not the first time I had stood in solidarity with Likhaan.
In college, I fundraised for Likhaan by staging the Vagina Monologues. Last year, I joined “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” on TV5 and Likhaan was my chosen advocacy. I also joined them in Baseco for the United Nations Population Fund event, talking to women and families who had more children then they could feed. It was utterly heart-breaking. They also supported “Bayang Magiliw”, my first indie film which is an RH satire directed by Gil Portes.
Tension in the air
As I stood once again next to my fellow Likhaan members in front of the white gates of the Supreme Court, the tension in the air was undeniably building.
Directly across the street was a pickup truck plastered with Anti-RH posters of bloody fetuses. In my head, I’m thinking, "really?" Was this the most effective way to convince people not to take contraceptives or curtail access to reproductive health? It seemed like such a childish endeavor.
They were mostly older women clutching their rosaries whilst saying their Hail Mary’s (not that I have anything against women who do this, as my mother is seemingly one of these women who are devout Catholic).
Very soon after, members of the press arrived in droves with their cameras and microphones taking every bit of the action. A woman by the name of Jomari was beside me and was carrying 7 different kinds of dolls, symbolic of the struggle of thousands of Filipinas who carry the burden of having a family size way beyond their means.
I was asked by the press why I was present at the RH rally. I reiterated how the ban on the RH law should be lifted immediately, as there have been reportedly 1,700 cases of maternal deaths since March this year. These could have been prevented with available reproductive health services. Congress has made the RH Bill into a law and now opponents of the bill want it declared unconstitutional.
"Enough," I said, "Give Filipina women access NOW!" I was speaking in simplified terms because, for one, I was asked to speak in Tagalog and secondly, as a journalist myself, I know the press doesn’t need long winded sound bites. I also spoke from the heart.
I shared how I am fortunate that, as a mother to two children, a girl and a boy, I am aware of the options available in planning my family.
What about the millions of Filipinas that don’t have access to these resources?
As the press scattered away, I asked Jomari to hand me the dolls to help her put them back in the bag when, sure enough, another photographer had to push his lens in front of us.
Below is the photo to show you what media deems newsworthy. The Manila Bulletin chose to publish my photo with my lonesome face instead of the photos of Jomari carrying the dolls when Jomari had merely passed me the dolls to put away. Whatever happened to spell checking a name either?
And really, is this how this country thinks? Because women like Jomari are nobodies since we don’t know of them or don’t know their names, we can just look the other way? The needs of marginalized women have to be heard in this country as this concerns our basic rights as humans.
Compared to Hitler
It was a full house inside the Supreme Court, with the heavy hitters from both camps separated by the aisle. I won’t pretend I understood all the legal jargon that was said that afternoon. However, I do believe I know when an argument is baseless and discriminatory.
For Justice Abad to compare the RH bill to the Holocaust and Pro-RH advocates such as myself to Hitler is not only insulting, it is demeaning and illogical. Yes, I realize that this is an emotional document that can sound defiant, yet what will it take to start a revolution against people who continue to impose their own moral beliefs on women’s bodies? In theory, that includes my own.
Lastly, to make reproductive health only accessible to people who are married is a sorry excuse for hypocrisy.
My case in point?
Just take a look at the viral sex videos going around these days. None of them in the videos seem to have rings around their finger. -Rappler.com
Giselle Töngi-Walters is the professional 'slashie.' Besides being mom to Sakura and Kenobi, she is also an all-around media personality. She is a model/product endorser/radio jock/writer/actor for film, TV, theater and producer for second generation Fil-Am content. Being part of the Rappler team is a way for her to utilize her academic and showbiz experience and hopefully make some sense beyond all the chismis.