Reproductive Health Bill
The Reproductive Health Bill is a bill pending in the 15th Philippine Congress that seeks to promote on a national level access to information and the availability of natural and artificial contraception. It seeks to empower couples in responsible family planning through education and access to legal and medically safe birth control.
The bill was first filed during the 8th congress in the Corazon Aquino administration and has been refiled in succeeding sessions. It has had an uphill battle due to extreme opposition mainly from the Roman Catholic Church, Pro-Life Philippines, the National Coalition for Family and Life, Abay Pamilya, and Philippine Nurses Association.
Despite the strong opposition by the Catholic church, who believes that the said bill will destroy family lives, the Chambers of Congress passed on the third and final reading of the RH Bill on 17 December 2012 13 senators and 133 Congressmen voted in favor of the bill, which will provide the government funds for contraceptives and reproductive health classes in schools.
Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.., Francis Pangilinan and Ralph Recto voted in favor of the bill. Against the bill are Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senators Gringo Honasan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Manuel “Manny” Villar, Bong Revilla, and Antonio Trillanes IV.
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III has certified the RH bill as urgent. It was languished at the Congress for 10 years, as legislators avoided to upset bishops that were instrumental in the 1986 People Power revolt.
A pastoral letter was issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), urging the other 64 lawmakers who have not yet cast their votes to vote against it. CBCP vice president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that the bill will lead to more crimes against women and that it “corrupts the soul”.
The RH Bill covers a wide range of health-related issues affecting women, and thereby directly affecting all Filipino families. If made into a law, this would be the first Philippine law that directly intends to control the population of the country through aggressive information dissemination on responsible family planning methods.
Contraceptives would be considered essential medicine and hospital-based family planning methods such as IUD insertion, vasectomy and ligation would be made available at government health centers. The ideal family size of two children per family would be encouraged. Through education, the bill proposes the improvement of women’s overall health by lowering the risk of complications from childbirth, unwanted pregnancies, infertility, decreased exposure to abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. Men would also be made responsible for reproductive issues. Children of school age would be taught lessons on family planning, starting at grade 5 to high school. Engaged couples would have to undergo family planning seminars prior to the issuance of their marriage license. Breastfeeding would also be further promoted.
The bill aims to curtail the population to be able to keep up with any economic development. It is created with the masses in mind, as the ones in the lowest income brackets tend to have the most children.
Lagman also said that there are ten to 11 women who die daily while giving birth, and this could be prevented through contraception. He also said that use of contraception will lower the rate of abortions.
According to the proponents of the bill, an effective population control program is instrumental to any economic development plan for it to succeed. Even with the passage of the bill, it will take at least three decades for its effects to be felt because of the strong momentum of the current population growth.
Some definitions used:
Reproductive Health Care - refers to the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men attain equal relationships in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.
Reproductive Rights - the rights of individuals and couples to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have children; the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
Doctors and nurses, especially those who belong to the Philippine Nurses Association, say that the bill promotes pills and devices which induce abortion. They refer to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2005). This journal concluded that the IUD brings about the "destruction of the early embryo," The scientific journal of the American Medical Association also concluded that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient. The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) announced in December 2010 that human life begins at fertilization, thus agreeing with the stand of the Catholic Church.
Medical practitioners also refer to the World Health Organization announcement that the birth control pill is carcinogenic or cancer-causing, confers the risk of stroke, and significantly increases the risk of heart attacks.
Meanwhile, several economists refer to the study of Nobel prize winner Simon Kuznets. He concluded that “no clear association appears to exist in the present sample of countries, or is likely to exist in other developed countries, between rates of growth of population and of product per capita." Other Nobel prize winners who said something similar are Gary Becker and Amartya Sen. Economists against the RH Bill also said that from 1961-2000, the Philippine population increased almost threefold, from 27 million to 76 million, while population incidence decreased from 59% to 34%. They stressed that the more probable cause of poor families is the limited schooling of the household head since 78% to 90% of the poor families have heads who did not finish high school.
The loudest voice against the Reproductive Health bill has been the Catholic Church, as they are against any type of artificial family planning because they believe it is a desecration of sexuality, an injustice committed by spouses who promised to give their entire bodies to the other spouse, and a lie in the language of self-giving. The Church, through Paul VI, is said to have prophesied that the promotion of contraception will lead to the disrespect of women (treating them as instruments of pleasure). It will also lead governments towards coercive population policies, and to more instances of infidelity and adultery. Although some pro-life advocates attempt to use social science to legitimate their claims of empirical links between contraception and many ‘social evils’,  this view is not typical of the majority of contemporary social theory, nor is it the finding of most empirical social science studies of human sexuality and cross-cultural contraceptive practices.
Some historians and political scientists also refer to the 1974 US National Security Memorandum 200 that has become US National Policy. According to this, the United States should give paramount importance in favor of its national interest to control the population of countries who might impede the flow of important natural resources to the United States and will oppose the US politically. Among these countries targeted for population control is the Philippines. The NSSM 200 wants the US leadership to do this through the United Nations agencies through strong media campaign and through the national leadership of each country by using incentives and awards.
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