What was particularly striking about Faces of the RH Bill, the forum I attended last night at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health (ASMPH), whose main audience was comprised of med school students and medical professionals, was how the anti-RH folk present claimed that the issue at hand was not a matter of Church vs. State but, rather, a matter of plain human rights. Unfortunately, while the said anti-RH folk did steer clear of invoking their god, their arguments remained unfounded, grossly presumptuous, and just plain deceitful.
The main speaker for the anti-RH position was Dr. Ligaya Acosta of Human Life International. Clicking hastily through her PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Acosta was able to make the following ludicrous statements (terms in quotation marks were lifted directly from her speech and her slides):
- The push for contraception is part of a “global anti-life/depopulation agenda,” thanks to the 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200, a policy giving “paramount importance” to population control measures and the promotion of contraception among 13 populous countries — the Philippines being one of them.
- RH was a mere “marketing term for abortion.”
- If the RH Bill does not require spousal or parental consent before acquiring RH methods, then that means that the Bill encourages abortion, since the only act which a person would rather not let her spouse or parents know about is abortion.
- If the Bill prohibits religion and family from meddling with one’s right to RH methods, then what will become of morality and the Filipino family?
- There are only 2 genders — heterosexual male and heterosexual female.
- Contraceptives have horrible side effects such as making a woman act unlike herself, cancer, fatal blood clots, and loss of bone density.
- Chemicals from contraceptives leak into the environment, thus creating “intersex animals.” (Here is an article on why this is bull.)
- One way contraceptives work is by shutting down the pituitary glands, and in effect shutting down a person’s communication center.
- Condoms have holes large enough for sperm and HIV to slip through.
- Excessive masturbation is wrong.
- RH leads to the Filipino youth’s poor English literacy since the English reading materials available are on sex and reproductive health, which they should not have access to.
- There is no need for the RH Bill because what we need has been in effect for a while now.
- If 11 women die everyday because of pregnancy-related complications, why do we claim to be overpopulated?
Tony Roxas from the Pro-Life Coalition also made the following mind-boggling statements during the Q&A portion:
- If the RH Bill becomes a law, children as young as 10 years old will be able to have sex, and their parents can’t do anything about it lest they (the parents) be thrown in jail.
- Consequently, the RH Bill will then legalize child prostitution, since dirty old men with money can simply send scouts out to public schools to pick out young girls for their sexual whims.
Renelyn Tan of the World Youth Alliance, on the other hand, did not antagonize the RH Bill but, rather, proposed the following changes:
- That the referral requirement in the Bill, wherein health practitioners are required to refer RH methods, be eliminated since this would be a violation of one’s conscience.
- To provide an ‘opt out’ provision for parents, since some of them would insist that they be the source of RH education.
Fortunately, RH advocates former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Likhaan Board Chair and FF-UP Diliman Senior Faculty Advisor Dr. Sylvia Claudio were also present for the forum, with the former as speaker for the pro-RH Bill stance, and the latter as reactor to Dr. Acosta’s statements.
Former Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel made the following strong, yet simple points in her speech:
- There is an overwhelming number of pregnancy-related deaths in the country.
- The mother’s life is very important.
- The RH Bill is a human rights legislation as it addresses every person’s right to health.
- The RH Bill is a gender-responsive and anti-discrimination legislation as well.
- The Bill does NOT promote abortion.
- (To the people against the RH Bill) Stop lying and start talking about the Bill as a health issue and not an issue of religion. (She also makes mention of the agnostics, atheists, freethinkers and humanists who are very much a part of the local population.)
- Public health will prevail over dogmatism.
- Nations who have adopted RH have seen a dramatic drop in abortions.
Later on, Dr. Claudio gave the following reaction to Dr. Ligaya’s speech.
- It is incredibly important to determine the reliability of an organization presenting any kind of data.
- Common contraceptives are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means that these drugs help meet the minimum health needs of the population, and are thus safe and efficacious.
- If you check the contraindications of paracetamol, you would be horrified; all drugs have side effects, which is why the RH Bill is important. The Bill gives people access to a plethora of methods from which they can choose the one that best suits their body and their conscience.
- When referring to certain studies or memorandums, check the date. Make sure it is the most recent, most updated document.
- According to the WHO and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), all contraceptives are NOT abortifacients.
- The RH Bill allows all of us to properly practice our consciousness. (She goes on to mention that she is an agnostic and a member of the Filipino Freethinkers).
I took comfort in the fact that most of the audience didn’t seem to take Dr. Acosta very seriously, audibly gasping at her statements and, during the Q&A, groaning in exasperation whenever she would try to rebut something the pro-RH contingent said. Regardless, it is still harrowing to be bombarded with outright lies within the confines of a medical institution, and I am only too glad that women as sharp and sensible as Former Rep. Hontiveros-Baraquel and Dr. Claudio were there to even out the Crazy, doing so with utmost class and clarity.
*The opinions expressed here represent the writer’s own opinions and not those of any employers past or present.