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What is the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines?


There are 6 bills pertaining to reproductive health and/or population management that have been filed for deliberation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the 15th Congress.

The most controversial of these bills is House Bill No. 96 authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman. House Bill No. 96, also known as the proposed "Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2010," will cover the following areas:
  • midwives of skilled attendance 
  • emergency obstetric care
  • access to family planning
  • maternal death review
  • family planning supplies as essential medicines
  • benefits for serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions
  • mobile health care service
  • mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education 
  • responsibility of local family planning office and certificate of compliance
  • capability building of barangay health workers
  • ideal family size
  • employers' responsibilities
  • multi-media campaign
  • implementing mechanisms
  • reporting requirements
  • prohibited acts
  • penalties 

The bill is controversial, as it is being opposed by concerned citizens, especially the pro-life, pro-family and pro-God groups, regardless of creed or religion. The Roman Catholic Church expresses its opposition against the bill on many counts, most especially the procurement and distribution of family planning supplies for the whole country, when the available evidence from peer reviewed medical journals supports the hypothesis that when ovulation and fertilization occur in women taking oral contraceptives (OCs) or using intrauterine devices (IUD), post-fertilization effects are operative on occasion to prevent clinically recognized pregnancy. Hormonal contraceptives and/or IUDs directly affect the endometrium. These effects have been presumed to render the endometrium relatively inhospitable to implantation or to the maintenance of the preembryo or embryo prior to clinically recognized pregnancy. These make pills and IUDS abortifacient.

Pro-life groups, and many professionals in the medical and nursing fields, believe that physicians and policy makers should understand and respect the beliefs of patients who consider human life to be present and valuable from the moment of fertilization. Patients should be made fully aware of this information so that they can consent to or refuse the use of artificial contraceptives.

However, the position of the Catholic Church and the pro-life groups does not mean that they espouse the attitude of "natalism" at all costs, as if the "number" of children, in itself, were the unmistakable sign of authentic christian matrimonial life.

The sexual act, properly exercised within marriage only, is ordained primarily to the propagation of life. If there are reasonable motives for spacing births, such as serious medical conditions in the mother, or extreme poverty, then the Catholic Church teaches that married couples may take advantage of the natural cycles of the reproductive system and use their marriage precisely those times that are infertile (natural family planning).

Other aspects of the bill being contested by concerned citizens include the classification of family planning supplies as essential medicines when their safety/toxicity profile and legal permissibility are questionable. At the same time, more importance should be given to the prevalent diseases, the top ten leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines, namely, infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Financial resources allotted by foreign donors to assist the Philippine government programs could actually be better spent towards pursuing health programs targeting communicable diseases than purchasing artificial contraceptives.

Very pertinent to the debate about reproduction rights is the right to life. The Philippine Constitution says that the State "shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. If artificial contraceptives are medically proven to induce abortion as one of their mechanisms of action, then procurement and distribution of such family planning supplies are unconstitutional and illegal.
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