Because unsafe abortion is an issue of public health, human rights, and social justice
HumanIty has been making things taboo for a handful of reasons. Often, these are things they don’t know much about. Sometimes, they do know some things about it but reject further information. In other cases, they are given unfair images about the subject. In the case of abortion, unfortunately, it ticks all the boxes.
In the past, we rarely saw good materials about abortion. People who try to speak about it are always met with judging eyes. But thanks to modern media and art, discussions about abortion have once again arisen. Who could forget about that abortion episode in “Sex Education” or that 2020 art exhibit “Abortion is Normal” in the US? Organizations like Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) and Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN) has been doing the same thing in the Philippines, particularly, in advocating for safe abortion.
In 2018, together with other artists, the PINSAN’s Telling Truer Stories (An Anthology for Safe and Legal Abortion) initiative was launched, aiming to shape people’s perception about abortion by “showcasing truths in different art forms.”
Continuing this mission, WGNRR, in collaboration with PINSAN and Filipino Freethinkers (FF), and with support from the Safe Abortion Action Fund (SAAF) and Abortion Conversations Projects (ACP), has produced the “Pasya Music Album.”
“‘Pasya Music Album’ is a collaborative process between the storytellers (people with abortion experiences who are willing to come forward with their stories) and artists,” says WGNRR executive director Marevic Parcon. “The process of creating music for this album is that from the lived realities of storytellers regarding their abortion experiences.”
In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, women’s rights activist Marevic Parcon shares more about the creation of the “Pasya Music Album,” the true horrors connected with abortion, and the role of art, particularly music, in getting the message across.
What is the story of the ‘Pasya Music Album’? How did it all start?
“Pasya” is a music album of original songs campaigning for the decriminalization of abortion in the Philippines, produced by Filipino artists, songwriters, storytellers, and safe abortion advocates and aims to continue the success of Telling Truer Stories (An Anthology for Safe and Legal Abortion), by putting [these] stories to music. Further, the album aims to move the topic of abortion out of the stigmatized horror genre it’s been caged in for decades, and rather, showcases the different aspects of the abortion journey, from fear to triumph, through music that’s targeted for today’s youth. Prior to the music production, a workshop series called Pasya Sessions was also done online, integrating mental health tools, post-trauma counseling, and solidarity building with educational discussions about the journey of decriminalizing abortion in the Philippines thus far.
“Pasya” is the Filipino word for decision, or a choice one makes after thinking carefully.
Who are the artists featured in the album?
Artists featured in the album include SHNTI, a rapper from the underground hip hop scene. She’s also a member of the WEMAN PH collective that aims for more Filipina representation in music; La Loba Negra, a local musical act with a wide range, from reggae to dub, Latin, and blues to psychedelic rock; BP Valenzuela a singer-songwriter, producer, and independent electronic pop artist; Tao, a solo and band performer (most recently with Sleep Kitchen) for almost 15 years; and MuroAmi, a hip hop artist. Calix, who is one of the producers of the critically-acclaimed anti-extrajudicial killings (EJK) album called “Kolateral,” is the composer and also produced tracks for this album.
What can listeners expect from it?
Listeners can expect an audio experience that is fun, liberating, and ultimately, more realistic. It also aims to educate and raise awareness among its audience on the abortion realities in the Philippines and why there is a need to decriminalize abortion in the country.
Being in a religious country, what do you think Filipinos don’t know/understand about abortion?
In a pre-dominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, abortion still revolves around the notion that it is a moral sin, instead of being seen as a medical procedure to address the cases of unsafe abortions. This procedure, when done by a skilled provider in a safe environment, can save lives of women and persons of diverse SOGIE from complications or worse, death. Religious opposition is still one of the main barriers in the fight for access to safe and legal abortion as a right of pregnant people, and it is a topic that should be continuously discussed in the public to educate and raise awareness among people and communities.
Why is it important for abortion to be decriminalized?
The Philippine Abortion Law is a restrictive, colonial, and archaic 1930 Revised Penal Code abortion. As such, having a penal law is not the answer to prevent women from undergoing backalley abortions. When women, service providers, and even the people who accompany women to undergo such unsafe abortion procedures are penalized, it doesn’t stop women from undergoing such risky process, rather this restrictive law further contributes to the number of women dying from clandestine and unsafe abortion because of lack of safe and legal abortion services available for them. Unsafe abortion is also a reality in the Philippines, often talked in hushed voices. One in three women die from unsafe abortions every day, and it is also one of the five leading causes of maternal death. It is an open-secret in communities, and often these women can be someone’s daughter, mother, or cousin. Unsafe abortions is a public health issue, especially in the middle of the pandemic where there is a rise of teenage pregnancy and domestic violence, and where women are also unable to access contraceptives to prevent unplanned and unintended pregnancies. Access to safe abortion is also a human rights issue being that access to safe and legal abortion is part of the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people who get pregnant. Decriminalizing abortion also upholds women’s rights to life and other fundamental human rights. In fact, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women Committee (UN CEDAW Committee) recommended to make abortion legal in the Philippines during its 2016 convention. It is also a social justice issue. Often, these women who undergo unsafe abortions are poor women who are married with at least three children. When young women and adolescents are also forced to carry their pregnancy without giving them other options, it disrupts their studies resulting in low educational attainment and lack of job skills and career options, thus they become part of the cycle of poverty. We should also take note that access to safe and legal abortion provides incest and rape survivors and sexually exploited women the opportunity to discontinue unwanted pregnancies without risk to their lives.
Is abortion pro-life?
The campaign to decriminalize abortion is aimed at saving the lives of thousands of women. Our campaign is focused on saving women, that is why we object the restrictive abortion law in the Philippines and assert that this violates women’s fundamental human rights, including the rights to life, health, nondiscrimination, privacy, and freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
The right to life is a fundamental human right, central to the enjoyment of all other human rights. International human rights law recognizes this basic right as accruing at birth, and international and regional human rights bodies, as well as courts worldwide, have clearly established that any prenatal protections must be consistent with women’s human rights.
How do people react about your advocacy?
Prior to the public launch of the campaign to decriminalize abortion in the Philippines together with a proposed Decriminalize Abortion Bill last Sept. 28, 2020, a series of stakeholders’ consultation from RH groups and advocates, women’s rights advocates and feminists, young people, academe, and human rights groups and lawyers were held to elicit their support to the campaign, of which most of them expressed their support especially the young people. On May 28, 2020 in celebration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, a photo of Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, PINSAN spokesperson, holding the proposed bill went viral on Facebook and garnered over 11,000 positive reactions (love, like, care) from the public. PINSAN has also launched a sign-on petition for the call on the decriminalization of abortion in the Philippines. Between Sept. 28, 2020 (launch date) and December 25, 2020, it has quickly amassed over 25,000 signatures as posted on PINSAN’s Facebook post. To date, the petition has already gathered 28,090 signatures from around the world.
How does music help in transporting the message of your initiative to the people?
Music has been proven to be an effective tool to send messages among people of various backgrounds. We hope that through “Pasya Music Album,” we move the topic of abortion out of the stigmatized horror genre it’s been caged in for decades, and rather, showcase the different aspects of the abortion journey—from fear to triumph. We also hope that the music in this album will provide listeners a fun and liberating experience on the realities of abortions in the Philippines.
Where and when will the album be available and are there other ways our readers can help with your advocacy?
The album will be launched on April 30, 2021 and will soon be available on YouTube, and on the decriminalization of abortion campaign website. For more information regarding the campaign, you may visit the website. You may also express your support by signing on to the petition to decriminalize abortion, and like and share Pasya Music Album’s Facebook Page. Should you also wish to connect with PINSAN, be updated on discussions and activities, or be part of volunteer advocates in the call to decriminalize abortion in the Philippines, you may send your email expressing your interest at [email protected].