Reproduction Health Bill

I. Reproductive Health Bill: An Introduction

“Reverence for life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life, and that to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil”- Albert Schweitzer
Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 is the quintessence of irony – a bill which is more commonly referred to by the general populace as RH Bill. It has been receiving churning praises and condemnations, commendations and criticisms from countless Filipino from all walks of life since its proposed legalization almost four years ago.
This bill is a substitution to HB Nos. 17, 812, 2753 & 3970. Introduced by Reps. Edcel C. Lagman, Janette L. Garin, Narciso D.Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona.
RH Bill covers the following issues: (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 RH; (11) Prevention and treatment of infertility and (12) RH education for the youth.
As was proposed by the Congress, this bill is supposedly an act of “providing for a national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development, and for other purposes as well” as well as to uphold and promote “responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards” through the use of contraceptives. (SEC. 2 Declaration of Policy, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2009). Though the proposed end is undeniably favorable, it certainly does not justify the means in which the government plans in attaining it.
It also promotes sustainable human development. The UN stated in 2002 that “family planning and reproductive health are essential to reducing poverty.” The UNICEF also asserts that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”
The church is against the implementation of this act simply because it blatantly violates the rule of ethics born of our Christian faith and traditions while the government is doing its best to persuade the people in legalizing it which. It goes against what nature dictates, does not promote the sanctity of sexual intercourse and marriage, and does not uphold nor promote the human dignity and morality.
Take one perception, contraceptive is a way of controlling population, a necessary guideline in family planning and the raising of the awareness of the youth through sex education; take another, it could also lead to complications such as premarital sex, legalization of abortion, health risks and desecration of the sacredness of sex and marriage.
Much has been said regarding this issue. It has both been deemed as an aid to the society as well as a threat to its morality. As a country struggling to achieve economic stability, improve livelihood and to keep up with the pressures of globalization, we cannot risking losing both. So what will it be, between two opposing forces, both having the country’s best interest at heart, which side will we ultimately stand?

II. Definition
Contraceptive – capable of preventing conception or impregnation; “contraceptive devices and medications”
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
Reproductive Health -refers to the state of 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 are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.
pro-life – advocating full legal protection of embryos and fetuses (especially opposing the legalization of induced abortions)
pro-choice – advocating a woman’s right to control her own body (especially her right to an induced abortion)
(Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.)
Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)-prescription medications that prevent pregnancy. Three combinations of birth control pills that contain progestin and estrogen are 1) monophasic, 2) biphasic, and 3) triphasic. Birth control pills may also be prescribed to reduce menstrual cramps or prevent anemia. Certain prescription medications may cause drug interactions. Some women experience various levels of side effects of birth control pills.

III. Explanatory Notes: A Further Information on RH Bill
It is worth noting, however, that available studies, data and statistics show that the Filipinos are responsive to having smaller-sized families through free choice of family planning methods:
a. The desired fertility rate of Filipino women is 2.5 children per woman. However, the actual total fertility rate is 3.5 or a difference of one child because of the lack of information and absence of access to family planning. The current unmet need for contraceptives for example is 23.15% for poor women and 13.6% for women who are not poor (2003 National Demographic and Health Survey)
b. 61% of currently married women do not want additional children (2003 National Demographic and Health Survey)
c. 50.6% of the youth want to have only two children (2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey)
d. 97% of all Filipinos believe it is important to have the ability to control one’s fertility or to plan one’s family. It is significant to note that 87% of the total respondents are Roman Catholic (February 2004 Pulse Asia Survey)
e. Nearly nine in ten Filipinos or 86% say that candidates for elective positions who advocate a program for women’s health should be supported while only 2% say they should be rejected and 12% are undecided on the matter;
f. 82% say that candidates in favor of couples’ free choice of family planning methods should be supported while only 3% think otherwise and 15% are undecided;
g. 82% of Filipinos consider candidates supporting a law or measure on population issues worthy of their voltes while only 3% say such candidates should not be backed at the polls and 15% are undecided;
h. 83% of Filipinos say they are in favor of candidates who support the allocation of goverment funds for family planning while only 2% say they are not and 15% are undecided; and
i. A mere 8% of Filipinos believe that a candidate’s championing of family planning issues will spell that candidate’s defeat at the polls.
j. In July 1991, the Social Weather Stations conducted a survey that revealed that 97% of Filipinos want to have the ability to control their fertility and plan their families.
Notwithstanding these findings that favor smaller-sized families, this bill is not a population control measure with the sole objective of limiting population growth. It provides for population development that aims to:
(a) help couples/parents achieve their desired fertility size in the context of responsible parenthood;
(b) improve reproductive health of individuals and contribute to decreased maternal mortality rate, infant mortality and early child mortality;
(c) reduce incidence of teenage pregnancy and other reproductive health problems; and
(d) contribute to policies that will assist government to achieve a favorable balance between population and distribution, economic activities and the environment.
This measure is not coercive. It gives couples the freedom to decide whether or not to plan their families or space or limit their children. Those who decide to plan their families also have the freedom to choose what method of contraception is best suited for them. The so called “two child policy” is voluntary, not compulsory; suggestive, not coercive; and absolutely not punitive. It is not even a policy. It is a suggested ideal or norm.
Accordingly, this bill seeks to provide the enabling environment for couples and individuals to enjoy the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education, and access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.
This proposed law aims to uphold and promote the four pillars of population and development enunciated by no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself in her statement of support for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) namely: (1) responsible parenthood, (2) informed choice, (3) birth spacing, and (4) respect for life.
It should be clarified, however, that this bill does not only protect the life of the unborn from the moment of implantation but that of the mother as well. Hence, the bill seeks to promote the reproductive health of women basically through massive and sustained information campaign 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. In the event they fail to prevent pregnancy and resort to abortion, they shall be provided with appropriate health and medical care. Despite the provision for humane and compassionate management of post abortion complications, this bill continues to proscribe and penalize abortion which is a crime under the Revised Penal Code.
To contribute to the empowerment and responsible behavior of the youth, this proposed legislation provides for age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education that may be initiated by parents at house, and shall be sustained and complemented by formal education in school.
An effective reproductive health education does not only instill consciousness of freedom of choice but responsible exercise of one’s rights. According to the United Nations Population Fund: “It has been, repeatedly shown that reproductive health education leads to responsible behavior, higher levels of abstinence, later initiation of sexuality, higher use of contraception, and fewer sexual partners, These good effects are even greater when parents can talk honestly with their children about sexual and reproductive matters.”
To guarantee the right of all persons to a full range of information on family planning methods, services and facilities and to ensure their access to an equally full range of medically safe and effective family planning methods at an appropriate time and by competent and adequately trained persons,the bill mandates the Commission on Population (POPCOM) to be the central planning, coordinating, implementing and monitoring body for the comprehensive and integrated policy on reproductive health and population development. Section 5 of the bill specifies the functions of POPCOM as the lead agency in the implementation of the “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2007″.
This proposed Act doses not only seek to protect and promote reproductive health and rights and to empower couples, individuals, more particularly women, and the youth, but it also aims to improve the quality of life of the people in general. Studies show that rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth. Consider the following:
• The Family Income and Exfenditures Surveys by the National Statistics Office (NSO) from 1985-2000 disclose that 57.3% of families having many children are poor but only 15.7% of families having two children are poor.
• Large family size is associated with negative determinant of school participation and poor health and survival rates among children. (Orbeta, Population and the Fight Against Poverty, 2003)
• The prevalence of child labor rises, and school attendance falls, with the number of children in the family (Raymundo, 2004). Moreover,the odds of a child becoming underweight and stunted are greater if he/she belongs to a household with 5 or more members (FNRI 1998). This partly explains why poverty tends to be transmitted and sustained from one generation to the next.
• According to the UN Population Fund 2002 Report, “lower birth rates and slower population growth over the last three decades have contributed faster economic progress in a number of developing countries.”
• Moreover,the same Report disclosed that fertility declines accounted for 1/5th of the economic growth in East Asia between 1960 and 1995. Additionally, it showed that countries that invest in health, including reproductive health and family planning, and in education and women’s development register slower population growth and faster economic growth.

IV. Background
House Bill number 5043 entitled “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008“is an act which “upholds and promotes responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards.
This bill is a substitution to HB Nos. 17, 812, 2753 & 3970. Introduced by Reps. Edcel C. Lagman, Janette L. Garin, Narciso D.Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona.
RH Bill covers the following issues: (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 RH; (11) Prevention and treatment of infertility and (12) RH education for the youth.
The State shall uphold the right of the people, particularly women and their organizations, to effective and reasonable participation in the formulation and implementation of the declared policy.
This policy is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens.
It does not have any bias for or against either natural or modern family planning. Both modes are contraceptive methods. Their common purpose is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
It also aims to promote sustainable human development. The UN stated in 2002 that “family planning and reproductive health are essential to reducing poverty.” The UNICEF also asserts that “family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.”
The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information thereon even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children, among other underprivileged sectors.” (Section 2 Declaration of Policy, House Bill No. 5043). This means the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods such as contraceptives.
V. Government’s Stand: “This is an Affair of the State”
The Reproductive health bill is a departure from the “current system and a step forward to improve the quality of life”( Dr.Nimfa Baria, Department of Anesthesiology, FEU-NRMF, Medical Department). RH Bill, taken from the government’s perspective, promotes responsible parenthood, gender equality, sexual awareness, and population-control as concrete steps for the betterment of our nation.
“The present population of the country of 88.7 million has galloped from 60.7 million 17 years ago. This makes the Philippines the 12th most populous nation in the world today. The Filipino women’s fertility rate of 3.05% is at the upper bracket of 206 countries. With four babies born every minute, the population is expected to balloon to an alarming 160 million in 2038.” (Explanatory Note, House Bill No. 17, Introduced by HONORABLE EDCEL C. LAGMAN)
This number reflects the alarming condition as well as the extent of affliction from which our nation is suffering under extreme poverty which can be rooted from the fact that each family includes 6-8 children to be fed, housed and educated within the minimum wage of Php 404.00 per day. This is barely enough for a medium-sized family of 4 to live by, how much more will this family of 8 survive with it? If this bill is legalized, families from underprivileged sectors can have free access to contraceptives which can help them limit or control the number of children they plan to have. Therefore, they can provide better sustenance, shelter, education and attention to their offspring.
It can also promote gender equality especially in these times wherein male stands supreme than the female. This ensures that women can have the same access to contraceptives just as much as men do. It can also protect the women from unwanted pregnancies and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
RH Bill also states the inclusion of sex education in primary level (Grade 5) through high school (4th). This will raise awareness among the youth of the possible consequences to which sexual intercourse may lead. This will include instructive teachings about contraceptives as well as its specific uses, informative education on sexual intercourse as well the diseases which can be obtained through it. Knowing the probable outcome of their choices will teach them to be responsible both in their decision as well as their actions even in their early age. These principles can properly guide them in weighing options which they may encounter later on.
Unwanted pregnancies may lead to drastic decisions to get rid of the unplanned baby which forces the mother to resort to illegal and unhygienic ways. This may lead to acquisition of diseases and infections which can usually be acquired by the mother and which can cause abnormality should the baby survive. RH Bill offers the use of contraceptives to prevent these things from happening.
Through the implementation of this bill, there will be less people suffering from unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease and poverty. Maternal death and mortality rate will be reduced. Couples will be well-prepared in building and planning a family. Children will be provided with proper care, adequate attention and suitable education they need and deserve. The youth will be informed and aware of their choices, be open-minded with regards to sexual matter, and be instilled with necessary guidance and principles which allows them to grow and to be honed to be responsible citizens.

VI. Church: “There can be no high civility without a deep morality”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Government, obviously, cannot fill a child’s…needs. Nor can it fill his spiritual and moral needs. Government is not a father or mother. Government has never raised a child, and it never will.
-William Bennett
The Catholic Church principally and primarily promotes and upholds human dignity. As oppose to what others may think, the Church even adheres to progress made by the sciences and the advancement through technology, insofar as these sciences do not trigger human exploitation and the possible degeneration of the Filipino’s morality influenced by politics and media. The Church willingly promotes and encourages proper family planning according to what the couple can rightfully sustain. That is why prior to the RH Bill, there must be proper discipline and education. There is no need for more redundant laws and contradictory articles which, in the end and ultimately, can injure the people’s ethics and values.
The country can still progress and at the same time manage its population without the need for contraceptives which can damage an individual morally as well as physically. We cannot let the attainment of progress and economic stability be at the expense of the people’s morality and dignity.
“There is a moral law in this world which has its application both to individuals and organized bodies of men. You cannot go on violating these laws in the name of your nation, yet enjoy their advantage as individuals”( Rabindranath Tagore).
Let the Church counsel and guide us on moral issues; let’s not rely on the sole presumptions of the politicians and the media. The Church’s stand will not change because it involves the nature of man as an image of the dignified creature created in the image and likeness of God.
There should not be any controversy to RH Bill as the Bible also teaches family planning to avoid economic difficulties in life. But to use man-made gadgets or operate on reproductive organs to avoid pregnancy are not natural means of birth control. A woman’s monthly period is natural so the means of controlling pregnancy must also be natural. Taking away the element of procreation in mating will leave only the expression of love and lustful satisfaction; thus, excluding the presence of God in the family.
It also goes against what nature dictates. There’s an inherent law that governs life that if an action has been executed, there needs be a consequence predicated upon it. RH Bill separates the concept of sexual intercourse from child-bearing, making it just a physical act out of lust and not a God-administer action. People will just have sex because they know that with the use of contraceptives, they will not have a baby to provide for later. In consequence, prostitution rate will sky-rocket and pre-marital sex will become a norm in the society.
By implementing the use of contraceptive to supposedly control the population, the good motive of procreation is somehow cancelled because sexual intercourse can now be done purely as an act of enjoyment and pleasure. Papal encyclicals published this century have simply affirmed the long-held views that the chief purposes of marriage are procreation and the rearing of children. It is disputed that the natural end of sexual intercourse is the conception of a child and that anything which interferes with this process is contrary to nature and is deemed unlawful. Both Pope Pius XII (1952) and Pope Paul VI (1968) permitted the use of the “rhythm” and other natural methods, such as abstinence, for their followers. They stated and taught that artificial contraception which separates “unitive” and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse breaks moral law. The church still stands true by this view today.
The Bible clearly depicts that there are more reasons for sex within marriage than simply procreation. In any given case, children is viewed upon as additional blessings in the Bible (Psalm 127:3-5), not an automatic occurrence. The unity of husband and wife in marriage is spoken of as mystery (Ephesians 5:25-32) expressing the relationship between Christ and His church.
RH Bill’s disadvantages outweigh its supposed benefits. It does not comply with the conservative tradition and culture of the Philippines, it hinders and prevents the conception of potential human beings, and the sanctity of marriage and sexual intercourse is demoralized. Should the RH Bill be legalized, there is not enough assurance that this will aid in the growth and development of our country. After all that has been said, one thing is inevitable: human dignity and morality will be injured regardless of the effectivity of the said bill.

VII. Conclusion: “There Can Be No High Civility Without a Deep Morality”
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”-Dante Alighieri
We are against the implementation of Reproductive Health Bill which encourages the use of contraceptives as well as the inclusion of sex education on all primary levels of education because it opposes the natural way of living, does not promote the sanctity of sexual intercourse and marriage, and does not uphold the human dignity and morality.
Government, obviously, cannot fill a child’s educational needs. Nor can it “fill his spiritual and moral needs. Government is not a father or mother. Government has never raised a child, and it never will.”- William Bennett
Sex education is not the responsibility of the government. It must begin with the parents should they feel that their children are mentally-capable of accepting ideas on sexual matters. Children vary in degrees of maturity and consciousness and in dealing with sensitive matters such as these. The government is fulfilling a responsibility which is not rightfully theirs. Guidance they can provide but they cannot go beyond that. They cannot educate a group of children on sex without regards of there different stages of readiness in introducing them to such a sensitive subject. This may bear misunderstanding that may affect their principles and values.
With legalization of RH Bill comes the advent of pre-marital sex, “live-in” and prostitution. the Primarily people will no longer respect the sanctity of marriage, and in the long run, they will treat the church and its doctrines which administrates it the same way. Without the fear for a Divine Being, people’s ethics will degenerate and when it does, they can do pretty much whatever pleases them without taking in consideration the effect it can make to other people.
“The contraceptive mentality suggests that man and woman have absolute and total control over their reproduction lives. Once you have that mindset and the contraceptives fail, then you can eliminate that problem [pregnancy] as well.” (Washington Monthly, 1991)

The use of contraceptives is also unnatural, anti-life, form of abortion. Rather than promoting the beauty of procreation, it highlights the risks of pregnancy and its associated woes. It is a general truth that the natural end of sexual intercourse is the conception of a child. By using man-made objects to change this natural law is considered unlawful and immoral. Should the contraceptives fail, couples, especially the woman, in an act of desperation will resort to abortion, which is considered a crime and tantamount to murder.
Contraceptives also demean the status of women. As prostitution is rampant nowadays, women will be assured that sexual intercourse with men cannot bear them a child. They will view sex as both pleasure and a source of added income without “any strings attached”. Instead of revering the nature of woman as “life-giver” to a potential human being, some are now viewed as sex-objects for momentary satisfaction of lust. Again, should the contraceptive fail, a woman, now faced with the burden and responsibility of both carrying and rearing a child, will now turn to abortion to get rid of the unwanted baby.
We do not believe that contraceptive can help our country achieve its goals. It is a doorway for people to commit immoral actions without the fear of the consequences which may follow. Law and morality is not at odds; law is simply “too young to understand”.

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