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The Philippine Reproductive Health Bill-Where Do You Stand?

Knowing the details of the proposed law is essential in having a healthy debate
on the issue. Here are the pertinent details of the proposed bill, which was introduced
during a session of the current Congress by Honorable Edcel C. Lagman, Janette L.
Garin, Narcio D. SantiagoIII, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Ana Teresa Hontiveros-Baraquel
and Elandro Jesus F. Madrona, and provides as follows:

Guiding Principles. – This Act declares the following as basic guiding principles:

a. In the promotion of reproductive health, there should be no bias for either modern or
natural methods of family planning;

b. Reproductive health goes beyond a demographic target because it is principally about


health and rights;

c. Gender equality and women empowerment are central elements of reproductive


health and population development;

d. Effective reproductive health care services must be given primacy to ensure the birth
and care of healthy children and to promote responsible parenting;

e. 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;

f. Freedom of informed choice, which is central to the exercise of any right, must be fully
guaranteed by the State like the right itself;

g. Free and full access to relevant, adequate and correct information on reproductive
health and human sexuality guided by qualified State workers and professional private
practitioners;

h. Reproductive health, including the promotion of breastfeeding, must be the joint


concern of the National Government and Local Government Units (LGUs);

i. Protection and promotion of gender equality, women empowerment and human rights,
including reproductive health rights, are imperative;

j. Development is a multi-faceted process that calls for the coordination and integration
of policies, plans, programs and projects that seek to uplift the quality of life of the
people, more particularly the poor, the needy and the marginalized;

k. Active participation by and thorough consultation with concerned non-government


organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (Pos) and communities are imperative to
ensure that basic policies, plans, programs and projects address the priority needs of
stakeholders;
l. Respect for, protection and fulfillment of reproductive health rights seek to promote not
only the rights and welfare of adult individuals and couples but those of adolescents’ and
children’s as well; and

m. The government shall ensure that women seeking care for post-abortion
complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and
compassionate manner.

Contraceptives as Essential Medicines. – Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine


devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies shall be
considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part
of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase
of essential medicines and supplies of all national and local hospitals and other
government health units.

Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. Reproductive Health


Education in an age-appropriate manner shall be taught by adequately trained teachers
starting from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School. The implementation of
Reproductive Health Education shall commence at the start of the school year one year
following the effectivity of this Act. The POPCOM, in coordination with the Department of
Education, shall formulate the Reproductive Health Education curriculum, which shall be
common to both public and private schools and shall include related population and
development concepts in addition to the following subjects and standards:

Reproductive health and sexual rights; Reproductive health care and services; Attitudes,
beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behavior and sexual health;
Proscription and hazards of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;
Responsible parenthood; Use and application of natural and modern family planning
methods to promote reproductive health, achieve desired family size and prevent
unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies; Abstinence before marriage;
Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other, STIs/STDs, prostate cancer, breast
cancer, cervical cancer and other gynecological disorders; Responsible sexuality; and
Maternal, pre-natal and post-natal education, care and services.

Additional Duty of Family Planning 0ffice. – Each local Family Planning Office shall
furnish for free instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood,
breastfeeding and infant nutrition to all applicants for marriage license.

Certificate of Compliance. – No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil


Registrar unless the applicants present a Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the
local Family Planning Office certifying that they had duly received adequate instructions
and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant
nutrition.

Ideal Family Size. – The State shall assist couples, parents and individuals to achieve
their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable
development and encourage them to have two children as the ideal family size. Attaining
the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory. No punitive action shall be
imposed on parents having more than two children.
COMMENTARIES
CATHOLIC CHURCH POSITION
The Catholic Church has been very vocal in disagreeing with the proposed bill and in the
process of obtaining peoples signatures to block the passage of the bill in Congress.
They are in the belief that passage of the proposed bill will give children proper
knowledge and training in Reproductive Health which would surely contribute to more
cases of abortion. While the proposed bill endeavor to consider the present world
problem of population growth, they believe that this should not be remedied through the
introduction of the bill as natural use of birth control can still be considered the best
approach to population control without resorting to abortion or blocking human right to
life.

DOCTORS’ POSITION
 DR. MARIA FIDELIS MANALO, MSc.
Bioethics Lecturer
Hospice and Palliative Care, Department of Community & Family Medicine
Far Eastern University-NRMF Medical Center
Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines

Though I am very much for educating the public regarding maternal care, prenatal
care and postnatal care, and I would definitely want to see a decrease in maternal
morbidity and mortality, I believe there are better ways of doing it. The end does not
justify the means. There are more legitimate and more effective ways of promoting
responsible parenthood. The use of artificial methods of family planning is not
completely effective in preventing fertilization or the formation of the zygote. Hence,
some artificial contraceptives are actually abortifacient. At the same time. these cannot
totally protect users from sexually transmitted diseases. These may also harm the body
in numerous ways. In the natural order, human life is a gift that is so great and so full of
possibilities that everyone should value it. Man is not the absolute owner of life; he is but
its steward. However, man has the right to self-determination, making his choices based
on the good and the truth, always in keeping with Natural Moral Law. This means that
neither the State nor society nor any individual has the right to dictate to anyone on how
to practice responsible parenthood, especially if the options go against their conscience
and/or religious beliefs and convictions. With regards to sex education, children have
different levels of emotional maturity and sex education is proper of parents. In order to
prevent unwarranted curiosity and correct the misconceptions, sex should never be
considered taboo, but should be discussed by the parents with the children with
delicateness and sensitivity.

The bill wants to uplift the quality of life of the people, to increase the share of each
Filipino in the nation’s resources, and to eliminate poverty. However, the solution to
poverty is development and not population control. Without many people realizing it, the
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Population
Fund (UNFPA) are usually behind the promotion of these RH bills around the world.
These are leading advocates of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. What
they do include the 5 As (Access, Adolescents, Advocacy, AIDS/HIV and Abortion.)
There are traces of eugenics in these and may actually be anti-poor rather than pro-
poor. The reproductive health bill does not actually solve the problem; it may actually
cause more predicaments. Since the contraceptive mentality (I can’t have or I don’t want
this child) is already there, if the contraceptives fail, people may just consider having an
abortion.
 DR. NIMFA BARIA
Department of Anesthesiology
FEU-NRMF Medical Center
Fairview, Quezon City, Philippines

The Reproductive health bill is a departure from the current system and a step
forward to improve the quality of life. It is important that this bill should focus on the
interest of the people and will not result in a demographic target wherein promotions will
be used to entice people in availing the services for population control. It is not true that
there will be abundant resources if we control the population; proper management of the
resources is the key. The reproductive health bill should go beyond the demographic
data and ensure the delivery of quality health care services by proper implementation.

This bill endorses the education on and access to both natural and artificial family
planning techniques. It enables women and couples to have the liberty of informed
choice on the manner of family planning they prefer according to their needs and
personal beliefs. Although it may decrease unwanted pregnancies and teen
pregnancies, there may be a possibility of having more promiscuous teenagers. The
proposed law is just a guideline and what is more important is the implementation. As
long as there will be proper execution of the law, this bill will not be a prelude to abortion.