Now that I have moved on from this personal fiasco which I call family life, I will be panning to the bigger picture, the debate around the Reproductive Health Bill. The whole RH Bill debacle has already escalated from staging silent protests by way of petitions from the burgeoning number of supporters up to the most radical ones (i.e. Carlos Celdran). Adding more drama is the Catholic Church’s threats of excommunication that even the nation’s highest leader was not spared from.
I just have three personal points to make regarding this issue which has been hovering around the heads of supporters and antagonists alike. I fundamentally believe that the RH Bill, considering its factual merits based on its full text, should be passed.
1. The Reproductive Health Bill is about educating people and allowing them to have an informed choice. By recognizing the fact that the bill subscribes to the purpose of educating the people and making sure that they exercise their rights bound by informed choices, there should not be any opposition to it. We must realize that in most instances the lack of education leads to bad practices and misaligned reason.
RH Bill advocates the use of family planning methods, not to mention that it veers away from making a biased judgment or a preference whether or not one form of family planning is better than the other. It does not, in any way, favor artificial or modern methods of family planning over natural methods and vice versa. However, contraception is just one aspect of the bill which is overly emphasized. There are other stipulations in the bill which should also be given paramount attention and proper platforms for discussion.
According to the Milllennium Development Goals Report by the United Nations in 2009, 536,000 women and girls die every year due to complications associated to pregnancy, the grim reality is that 99% of these maternal deaths happen in developing countries, the Philippines included (MDG Report, 2009; 26). Likewise, achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015 is one of the targets of Goal 5: Improve maternal health, but sadly, 74% of maternal women in South East Asia do not receive proper and adequate prenatal care from a skilled health professional, the Philippines is again part of that statistic (MDG Report, 2009; 27).
It is important to stress that the Philippines is one of the many developing countries with deficient health infrastructures which fail to address the needs of its people. However, it is worthy to note that we are capable of setting measures in place to respond to the problems we are facing. Sure we have a lot of laws covering every possible aspect of governance, most of which according to the great environmental lawyer Tony Oposa, are ‘languishing’ in a death bed of laws, but passing the RH Bill is the first step towards realizing the goal of lessening the number of maternal deaths in the country if not fully eradicating [it].
One of the guiding principles of the RH Bill found in Section 3 states that:
Since manpower is the principal asset of every country, effective reproductive health care services must be given primacy to ensure the birth and care of healthy children and to promote responsible parenting.
Suffice to say, the bill is well-intentioned towards ensuring that maternal women are given the right medical attention they need. They are also provided with plausible options on how they want to have their families be like.
Allow me to briefly go back to contraception, specifically the artificial modes; people should be aware that contraceptives such as condoms do not only serve a sole purpose which is birth control, but also safeguard people from contracting sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. 30% of young Filipinos believe that AIDS is curable. The lack of proper information is a problem in itself aside from the actual disease.
2. The Reproductive Health Bill, contrary to what misinformed Filipinos believe, will not put forward the legalization of abortion.
It is clearly stated in the guiding principles of RH Bill that it WILL NOT change any aspect of the law on abortion. According to Article M, Section 3:
While nothing in this Act changes the law on abortion, as abortion remains a crime and is punishable, the government shall ensure that women seeking care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counselled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.
Providing treatment to women who have undergone abortion is different from condoning abortion itself. Most Catholics or rather most Filipinos who are devout in their chosen religions would play the morality card by saying that abortion, may it be in its pre or post stage should not be given support and warrants extreme condemnation, I beg to disagree. Wouldn’t it be contrary to their religious dogma which they perfectly put as a centrepiece to their table of arguments? They say every child has the right to be born, that is indeed true, but why let a 15-year old girl bleed to death due to unsafe abortion practices and be shown no compassion, is it not ironic?
You may argue it was her choice, too right; it was her choice and hers alone. But what are the alternatives? The Catholic church has one, continue with your pregnancy for god rewards the faithful—in his own time and the lord loves the poor (Project Kino). So what, if your child goes hungry with the rest of your family, is it not worth the sacrifice when in the end, it is the kingdom of the heaven you are going to inherit? Apparently so, and that is how malevolently a vast majority of Filipinos plunge into the puddle that is called the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
I am pro-choice, and so are the other supporters of the RH Bill. I am not anti-abortion but it does not mean I am pro-abortion. What I am just saying is that there are certain predicaments that should be valid grounds for undertaking such medical practice—in cases of incest, rape, and dangerous pregnancies. I am getting quite off tangent. So going back to my point, RH Bill is not the first step towards legalizing abortion; it will just extend the right to be treated humanely in the event of post-abortion complications.
Just a side note, if people are keen about the atrocities of RH Bill and how they link it with abortion, I think it’s about time for them to re-examine their stance, why? Come to think of it, if people are informed about taking care of their reproductive health, they would not end up in a position whereby they will consider having an abortion which in most cases in the Philippines, is unhygienic and poses a grave threat to their welfare.
3. The Reproductive Health Bill is not the answer to poverty.
People think that overpopulation is the reason for poverty. But is it really? I don’t think so. I would like to believe that poverty in the Philippines is due to various complex factors often found in developing countries. There is inefficient bureaucracy, the gross misappropriation of resources, and the perennial problem of graft and corruption. For me blaming overpopulation as the reason for poverty is a scapegoat for those people who think that our swelling population can be conveniently equated to why a lot of people remain poor. Even the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) recognizes that overpopulation is not the root cause of poverty.
BUT can we or should we completely rule out the correlation? That is the grey area in the whole poverty and overpopulation debate. And while such assertion has been made, I am confident that it is not enough reason to kill the RH Bill, since by and large, an ideal population will allow better resource management. But what is an ideal population, you may ask, honestly, I do not know, what I do know, however, is that it’s not 90 Million or more Filipinos living in such a deplorable situation.
Article E of Section 3 explains that:
The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to, be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes the allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless.
Hence the need for controlling the population plus it should be coupled with immense resolve from the end of the government to address the democratic deficit that has long been present in the Philippine society.
*A copy of the Full text of House Bill No. 5043 (Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008.
** Show your support to the RH Bill by signing the petition.
|I support the RH Bill.|