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Philippines: Reproductive Health debate

Several Filipino lawmakers want to enact a law that will provide for population and reproductive health programs at national and local levels. The Philippines, whose population is almost 90 million, is one of the most populous nations in the world. Many scholars believe that the country’s high population exacerbates its social and economic problems.

The Reproductive Health (RH) bill mandates health and local agencies to inform Filipino couples about birth control methods, maternal health care and other reproductive health concerns. Sex education will be introduced in schools as well.

The bill is controversial since it is vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church. In particular, church officials are opposing the promotion of artificial birth control methods. They insist the bill will legalize abortion in the country.

The Philippines is a Catholic-dominated nation. Politicians are afraid to lose the support of church officials. Even if Congress approves the RH Bill, there is still a big probability that the President will veto the bill.

What are the views of Filipino bloggers?

A Filipina Mom Blogger enumerates her reasons for supporting the bill:

1. I believe Filipina women or their spouses should have the freedom to choose what is best for them and the family. (help couples/parents achieve their desired fertility size in the context of responsible parenthood;)

2. I believe that sustained information campaign be imparted on reproductive health rights, care, services and facilities coupled with universal access to all methods of family planning ranging from the natural to the modern which are medically safe and legally permissible.

Atheista, a medical student, agrees that schools should teach reproductive health issues:

“Whether or not it is a secular university, an educational institution should be a credible source of information. It should not be beholden to any religious creed that, upon closer inspection, champions ignorance and quick judgment in the face of perceived social taboos. The campaign to make awareness on reproductive health and contraception more commonplace should be tailored to the population exposed to it.”

Congressman Ruffy Biazon is another supporter of the bill:

“Why do I support the bill?

“Because I have seen first hand during my service to my constituents the consequences of the continued denial of information and service to the people.

“Because there are women whose bodies have been ravaged by multiple consecutive pregnancies even if they had not planned it.

“Because I have seen too many teenage pregnancies which could have been avoided had these young women been informed about their adolescent reproductive system.

“Because I have seen too many complications in pregnancies and births from the poor constituents that come to my office for medical assistance.

“Because I have seen too many infant and maternal deaths, orphaned children, bereaved husbands.

Flowers from the Rubble, a critic of the measure, replies to Biazon’s article.

AlterNation 101 believes the bill should not be approved:

“I cannot fathom how promoting parental responsibility and financing everyone’s freedom to have sex irresponsibly could mix together. Surely, the proposed law spreads around nice words such as responsibility, healthcare, freedom, choice, development, rights, equality, couples, etc. Yet, it is nothing but an attempt to remove God from our government and society.”

Herbert Vego, writing for Iloilo Views, criticizes “the vanguards of morality (who) oppose the Reproductive Health on the ground that it’s euphemism for abortion.”

Meanwhile, Snapshots reminds lawmakers that a high population is not necessarily bad for the economy:

“(The RH Bill) claims to alleviate poverty by controlling the population growth. The thing is, the population rate is actually decreasing, and if there would be a cause of poverty, it would be the unjust distribution of resources and overcrowding in one place, not the growing number of people. Manpower is an asset, and this could actually be a means to better the country's economy. Evidences are clear that a country's big population is not enough reason to blame for the country's poverty.”

Last month, Catholic professors from a prestigious university issued a statement supporting the RH bill:

“We believe that it is possible for Catholics like ourselves to support HB 5043 in good conscience, even as we recognize, with some anguish, that our view contradicts the position held by some of our fellow Catholics, including our bishops. Those who oppose the RH Bill have denounced it as “pro-abortion,” “anti-life,” “anti-women,” “anti-poor,” and “immoral.” However, our reason, informed by our faith, has led us to believe and say otherwise.”

Random Thoughts and Musings answers the concerns raised by the professors. On the other hand, RK points out the deficiencies of the RH Bill:

“The bill cannot be pro-life because of many sections in the bill that promote harm than health, promote injustice rather than a greater good, and do not respect the solemn union of spouses in marriage.

“Neither is the bill pro-women because it makes them available for sex anytime the man wants it. In the long run, it is again the women who suffer from the physical consequences of contraceptives and the emotional depression coming from sexual abuse.”

Instead of the RH bill, she wants lawmakers to pass these measures:

“What is needed, among other things, are the proper education of couples with regards to the value of marriage, spousal relationship, responsible parenthood and the use of natural family planning methods (like the Billings Ovulation Method) that do not have any harmful side-effects, have a higher success rate than artificial means, and foster deeper communication, care and respect between couples. The Legislators must also enact laws that will promote the availability of affordable and improved pre-natal, delivery and post-natal services for indigent families; and focus on addressing the causes of mortality rates, primarily, insufficient nutrition, safe water and a cleaner environment.”

Bishop Oscar Cruz explains why contraceptives should not be classified as essential medicine:

“First, since when have contraceptives become “medicine”? Medical products are meant to cure a sickness. Since when is contraception categorized as a sickness that should be prevented or cured?

“Second, since when have contraceptives become “essential”? Something is essential if without it, nothing is even possible. This would mean that without contraceptives, health would be impossible, sickness and death would be inevitable!

“And finally, since contraceptives could become no less than “essential medicines,” would there be also “essential medicines,” to cure the cancer, tumor and other sicknesses contraceptive drugs and devices cause specially in women who are the standard targets as well as usual victims of artificial contraception?”

Former Senator Francisco Tatad accuses RH Bill advocates of serving foreign interests:

“What foreign interests are behind the wild and moneyed push for this bill? Why are so many foreign-funded NGOs, featuring brand and customary “nationalists”, trying to ride roughshod over the Constitution and Catholic objections to it on moral and constitutional grounds?”

Arbet writes about the failure of government to perform its duty:

“Unfortunately, the current regime has chosen to act as part of the Catholic Taliban and made natural method its family planning policy. So a poor couple (and the woman has an irregular period) who wants to control the number of offspring cannot expect the government to hand them out condoms and/or pills. I think this policy violates the couple’s freedom of choice. This is a gross dereliction of duty by this regime.”

See video below which features the position of the Church regarding the bill:

Read the full text of the bill. Listen to the sponsorship speeches of the RH Bill authors.

6 comments

  • Ipe Espinosa of Bacolod City

    Passage into law of the RH Bill may lead to additional opportunity for corruptions in the Philippine government such as condom scam or ghost deliveries, to glaring promiscuity among the Filipino youth which may progress to homosexuality, and to realization that RH law is ineffective to reduce population (as being aimed at) due to lack of taxpayers’ money to buy and distribute free condoms for the use of 4.9 million Filipino youth, anytime, anywhere. Next to RH Bill, bill on same-sex marriages and divorce, pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia bills will most likely follow.

  • michael

    the bill will just induce sexual gratification on teens. i agree that married couples should be introduced with some options but i think that teens should be taught SELF CONTROL. many teens would engage in casual sex if the part of the bill that teaches birth control on teens wouldn’t be amended.

  • Ritche

    nararapat lang na ituro sa mga istudyante and “sex education”,sapagkat tayo po ay ipinag’aral ng ating mga magulang upang tayo ay turuan ng mga bagay-bagy na nangyayari sa ating paligid at alamin kung ano ang tama sa mali, bakit natin ipagkaila sa kanila ang dapat sana ay kanilang malaman?sila ay may karapatan.dapat ituro,wag ipagkaila.

    • michelle

      tama ka…teens shoud be aware to this matter. Actually, the church is not against in teaching the SEX EDUCATION but their concern is how this matter is delivered to the young ones..

  • […] Senator Tito Sotto delivered a speech about his opposition to the controversial Reproductive Health bill in general, and the dangers of artificial contraceptives in particular. The following day, Alfredo […]

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