August 7 is another big day in the Philippine’s 15th Congress, when the senators of this country will have to vote on passing the 2010 Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill, dubbed as the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act. Passing the RH Bill now is the most intelligent contribution that the representative and solons of this government can leave the Filipino people – an affirmation of reproductive health as basic human right.
The first version of the bill was filed in 1999, since then the Philippine Congress representatives and the solons have their own version. Population Development and Health Care Policies in the country has long been promoted dating back to 40 years, but those failed to curtail fertility rate and population growth. The previous administrations have delegated these matters to several institutions such as the Department of Health, Department of Education and even established the Population Commission.
According to NSCB data, The Philippine population is steadily increasing, from the 1900 until 2000 at a rate of more than 2 percent per year. It was only in 2010 that the annual population rate decreased to 1.90%. Those households who have the biggest number tend to be those under the poverty line without having proper health education and medical support. AFP reports that “Between 2006 and 2010, the maternal mortality rate rose 36 percent to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births, from 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 2005, according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey”. The Philippines rank 48 in terms of maternal deaths. This concerns the United Nations in its effort to help the Philippines reach its Milleneum Development Goals.
The largest portion of the Philippine population comprise the youth who need appropriate sex education and reproductive health care. Further the Department of Health reports that HIV/AIDS cases in the country is spiking, the number of affected youth is also on the rise. There are indicators that suggest poor knowledge due to misconceptions on reproductive health and the inavailability of protection are significant to the sexual behavior of young Filipinos that make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. The Church abhors the government move to make contraceptives like condom to be distributed free, because it fears that this provokes perversion even more.
In the same way, it is the Church battling against RH Bill, like how it lashed on earlier inititatives to manage the population, institionalize sex education and promote sexual health. The Church as a social institution has to do what it knows best to do, but it should not remain ignorant of the cause that the Reproductive Health Bill seeks to guarantee for the larger population. Indeed, the Catholic Church has a clout to 80% of the Philippine population, yet that should make the heads of the Church more conscious to advise the faithful with wisdom, and restrict its admonitions to the state.
While the rich and affluent citizens can afford to be attended by skilled health care providers, the poor and the marginalized do not have the means of having their reproductive health concerns attended to, because it is excluded in the national health insurance. Philhealth does not cover prenatal and post-natal care for mothers, neither do health insurances cover sexually transmitted illnesses. At the moment, companies need not be concerned of their employees reproductive health. Legitimizing reproductive health as a basic human right receives strong contention not only from the Catholic Church, but also with the business industry because this compels the latter to be responsible for the reproductive health of everyone in their organization.
RH Bill Now!
The wisdom of RH Bill is that it legitimizes reproductive health as a universal right. That implies every Filipino especially the women are guaranteed the means to improve their health and quality of life. As it does, it has implications to one’s civil liberties while it guarantees non-discrimation to make reproductive health care available for everyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
It is the state’s moral obligation to improve the quality of life of everyone. It is the Church’s moral obligation to guide the believers in living a conscientous life. It is consciountious to afford everyone access to maternal care, reproductive health education, and all the means to keep them safe in their life, that includes sex life. The bill does not encourage casual or indiscriminate sex, since that is within the autonomy of anyone.
The state can not infringe on individual liberty neither the Church should. It is a moral obligation of the state for the society to enjoy economic development. In managing the nation’s economy it is imperative that the people should be educated in its decision as to the household population and provided the knowledge and means to maintain social and physical health for the family.
Responsible parenting is emphasized in the reproductive health, without demanding, compelling or coercing parents as to the number of children, although the population development plan is to encourage keeping the number of children to two. This is based on several studies and templates that worked in many countries. The reproductive health bill does not speak of preventing parents to rear children. Hence, it is not about contraception.
RH Bill compels the government and businesses to make contraceptives and sexual health education available for everyone because these are means to ensure their reproductive health while they are knowledgeable of such. Contrary to the clergy’s logic about contraception, the use of such devices are responsible protective means for adults who can decide for themselves. Likewise, it does not encourage abortion. Instead, it affirms that Abortion is illegal.
Because the Church has a large influence to the Filipino people, the bill’s provision for accommodation of freedom of conscience and religion has divided the medical practitioners. When reproductive health is legitimized as a universal human right, access to contraceptives come with that, and medical practitioners have to denunce their right to freedom of conscience and religion in making that available for the patient, unless they can prove that will not do good for the patient.
Pass RH Bill 4424
It is ignorant not to consider passing the RH Bill now, and it pays to be knowledgeable about what really matters in the letters of the law. There is no other truth hidden behind the letters of the law, but the interpretation of the people. The general provision of RH 4244 in its declaration of policy is clear to extend and emphasize reproductive health as a basic right :
The State recognizes and guarantees the exercise of the universal basic human right to reproductive health by all persons, particularly of parents, couples and women, consistent with their religious convictions, cultural beliefs and the demands of responsible parenthood. Toward this end, there shall be no discrimination against any person on grounds of sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, political affiliation and ethnicity.
Moreover, the State recognizes and guarantees the promotion of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment as a health and human rights concern. The advancement and protection of women’s human rights shall be central to the efforts of the State to address reproductive health care. As a distinct but inseparable measure to the guarantee of women’s rights, the State recognizes and guarantees the promotion of the welfare and rights of children.
The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information and education thereon even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children, among other underprivileged sectors.
The State shall eradicate discriminatory practices, laws and policies that infringe on a person’s exercise of reproductive health rights. (HB 4244, Sec. 2)
As a basic human right, access to reproductive health care, regardless of gender, sexuality orientation, economic status, is to be made available to everyone. It should not scare anyone that the Philippine population will be eradicated, thinking that passing the Bill is part of the grand scheme to summon forth the master race, that has no empirical basis. Indeed, the Philippines may not be overpopulated, but do consider that Filipinos nowadays, particularly those with higher education and those in the working middle class are keeping a smaller household.
The debate has been going on, and the delay has been for ten years. With this statistics are telling the same thing, and the quality of life of the Filipino may not have changed. No, RH Bill does not guarantee the improvement of the quality of life of the general population, it only establishes the legal frames in which access to reproductive health bill is assured for everyone as universal human right. While the specific provisions of the Bill are clear and supportive of its general provisions, and enumerable studies support the move to pass the bill, the debate is not about contraception, abortion, population extinction, but rather whether reproductive health should be recognize as unversal human right for the Filipino people.
August 7 is another historical day that Philippine legislators will have to make stand. The decision to pass RH Bill is much more important to every Filipino people and the next generation, than impeaching another government official. The Filipino voters should be mindful of the decisions the politicians of this congress will make and consider that in the upcoming election. Those who stand for the RH Bill speaks for all Filipinas and the Filipino people in general, those who thinks that the RH Bill is worthless are but ignorant and should be informed of the letters of the proposed law.
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