“Ultimately it is a secular issue, it’s a matter of public policy, it should be for all Filipinos. Not just Catholics. People of whatever faith or people of no faith. If they say they’re agnostic or atheistic, the law should serve them.” – Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel on Reproductive Health Bill
As an advocate of freethought, I always maintain a personal maxim to know, as much possible, all the counter-arguments in relation on what I hold as correct and sensible. The ratio of this knowledge determines how much I am really into the whole issue in question. Also by doing this, I acquire the positive habit of exploring most, if not all, the different perspectives in any multi-faceted issue – be it religious or political in nature. As I read somewhere from WWW it says that “if you don’t stand for something, you will easily fall for anything”. I agree. But as a word of caution before making a stand one must employ first the habit of critical thinking as oppose to religious fanaticism.
So while the fate of the controversial health and welfare House Bill 5043 or RH Bill is at the hand of our politicians and lawmakers, let us examine also the pit and the pendulum surrounding the issue, and how to properly address this in a language that everyone can understand and convince those people in favor of RH Bill, including me.
So what is RH Bill?
The Reproductive Health Bill and Population Development Act of 2008, (RH Bill) seeks government funding for population management programs that would provide reproductive health education and would give access to both natural and artificial family planning methods to all Filipinos. According to the House of Representatives by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Ladman, primary author of the bill, central to the RH bill is “the exercise of freedom of informed choice by women and couples on what method of family planning they want to adopt”.
Coverage of RH Bill:
1. Information and access to natural and modern family planning.
2. Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition.
3. Promotion of breast feeding.
4. Prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications.
5. Adolescent and youth health.
6. Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections, HIV/AIDS and STDs.
7. Elimination of violence against women.
8. Counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health.
9. Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers.
10. Male involvement and participation in Reproductive Health.
11. Prevention and treatment of infertility.
12. Reproductive Health education for the youth.
As I read and examine the full text of the bill, available HERE.
I realized that RH Bill is not infallible. With cogent arguments backed with solid evidence the anti camp has a cause to further, and therefore misuse of religious authority, delaying tactics, name-calling, and intensified misinformation by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and others are not needed. They just have to prove the following:
RH Bill is pro-abortion*
This single issue alone once proved is enough to discourage anyone’s support for the pending bill. As even the authors of the bill acknowledge the fact that abortion in this country is not allowed and will remain a crime and punishable. Hence for the anti-RH Bill all they have to do is to show evidence that some of the modern methods in the artificial family planning, included in the proposed law, directly induce deliberate destruction of the fertilized egg or abortion. As evidence, it should be new and reliable scientific evidence; peer reviewed in many scientific journals, and approved by the majority in the field of medicine and health sciences.
*note. Nowhere in the RH Bill is it ever mentioned that abortion will be legalized. Contraception is entirely different from abortion. What’s included in the RH services among others is the post-abortion treatments of women suffering from complications due to abortion circumstance, because the authors believe that they are still entitled to their humane health rights regardless whether if they did it legally or not. The best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, in which RH Bill is intended to. For the list of considered contraceptives approved by World Health Organization (WHO) you can find it HERE and HERE.
RH Bill will not eliminate poverty. As corruption not over-population is the problem*
This is the socio-political paradigm of the issue. The aim, of course, is to project that RH Bill is not very important and will not lead to practical solution and might even worsen the current problem, and so wasting the taxpayers money is objectionable. By this claim, they have to provide adequate studies in reference to the statement that over-population is not a problem, or manpower is actually an asset to a nation or something like that. (They could even cite China as an example of large country with very large population but with a powerhouse economy). They could even argue that the unequal distribution of wealth, wrong priorities of the government, and the greedy oligarchs are the culprit why our nation is under-developed without the burden of over-population.
* note. RH Bill is not a one-size-fits-all solution to all known problems in the Philippine society. But RH Bill acknowledge that population affects poverty; the same way poverty affects the population of a country. Corruption and over-population is both a problem that needs to be provided with ample solutions. RH Bill is a proposed population development law to manage a quality oriented populace. For the relationship of poverty and population of a country see the studies conducted by UN Human Development Reports, The Asian Development Bank in 2004, National Statistics Office (NSO), 2006 Family Planning Survey Philippines Fact Sheet.
RH Bill is unconstitutional*
One of the other objections against the passage of RH bill stems from misconception that this bill is coercive on the side of the employers to provide mandatory free reproductive health care services, supplies, devices and surgical procedures to employees, and be subjected to both imprisonment and/or a fine, for every time they fail to comply. While others cited the freedom of religion and the ‘criminalization of conscience’ of the individuals.
* note. The mandated responsibility on the part of the employers to provide free RH services and supplies to their employees as part of their constitutional overall health plan is an extension to the present law of the land reflected from the Labor Code ARTICLE. 134. Family Planning Services; Incentives for Family Planning. Full text available HERE.
(a) Establishments which are required by law to maintain a clinic or infirmary shall provide free family planning services to their employees which shall include, but not be limited to, the application or use of contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices.
(b) In coordination with other agencies of the government engaged in the promotion of family planning, the Department of Labor and Employment shall develop and prescribe incentive bonus schemes to encourage family planning among female workers in any establishment or enterprise.
On the part of the individuals, once the RH Bill has been enacted the government will neither force anyone to use artificial family method if they don’t want to, nor will dictate the number of children a family can have. RH Bill protects, provides and finance choices and access to a full range of safe and effective family planning methods (natural and artificial) to Filipinos regardless of their belief and non-belief .
What has been tackled here are just some of the controversial aspects purporting the said bill and definitely leaves a lot of room for further examinations and criticisms (especially on the legal part), but the message and challenge cannot be as clearer to those who oppose the RH Bill.
RH Bill is a legal and scientific issue, not religious. Provide reliable evidences or stop wasting taxpayers money and PASS THE RH BILL NOW.