Whether or not the RH bill is made into law, Filipinos have the right to use contraception. More precisely, they have the Hohfeldian privilege-right, which means they have no duty not to use contraception because there is no law prohibiting them from doing so. According to the Hohfeldian system for describing the form of rights, to say that one has a privilege to do something is to say that one has no duty not to do it.
This is what some of the opponents of the RH bill, including Sen. Tito Sotto, are saying. They also point out that free contraceptives are already being distributed by the government so there is really no need for an RH law.
But such distribution is only happening because the current administration supports it. Moreover, as Karen Davila said in an interview with Sen. Sotto last August 16, in many cities where the mayor or governor is a member of the Opus Dei or Pro-Life, they impose their religious beliefs on their constituents by pulling out all the contraceptives from the barangay hall.
To which Sotto replied, “That’s looking at it on the other side of the fence, Karen. Look at it on the other side…you are removing the freedom of choice of the mayor and the governor and the next president.” He argued that if the next president is against contraception, you will remove his freedom of choice if RH is already made into law.
Which is precisely the point of the RH bill not only as far as contraceptives are concerned, but also in providing for age-appropriate sex education, reproductive health information, midwives, emergency obstetric care, and maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations. For now, all of these are merely privileges or privilege-rights in the sense that there is no law prohibiting people from using contraception, and there is no law prohibiting the national and local governments from giving everything that the RH bill seeks to provide.
An RH law, however, will add to this privilege a claim by imposing on the government a duty to provide qualified people access to free contraceptives, information, emergency obstetric care, etc. To say that one has a Hohfeldian claim-right means that another has a duty to satisfy that claim. In other words, an RH law will take away a mayor’s right to be a douchebag by depriving citizens of RH services in the name of his religion.
And this is one of Sotto’s major objections to the RH bill. It seems that he is more concerned that the mayors, governors, and the next president will have the “freedom of choice” to withhold lifesaving information and assistance, than to grant the claim-right to the thousands of Filipino women who badly need them and whose lives could be saved by an RH law.
Which makes us wonder, is Sen. Sotto really pro-life? He sounds more like pro-choice ― not choice for women, but choice for the public officials.