The Reproductive Health Bill: the Fact and the Fiction

by Liberty Chee

Reproductive health is not new in the Philippine legislative landscape. It has gone through many permutations and versions since the 11th Congress. Reproductive health bills have progressed little in the past decade owing to the strong and organized opposition of the Catholic clergy. However, in the last year, the polemic has escalated to capture the attention of many Filipinos due in part to the strong language coming from the CBCP. In July 2008, the bishops threatened to excommunicate politicians who would support the bill.

The discourse coming from those opposed to the bill often degenerates into the willful distortion of “reproductive health” and spreading misinformation on the content and implications of the bill.  This either betrays a complete ignorance of what is written in the legislation or a malicious intent to defeat the bill at all cost. If the Church hierarchy’s arguments against the bill were to be addressed point by point, then they would have no ground for reasonable opposition.

On Abortion

“Pro-life” advocates say they are against the bill because it effectively legalizes abortion. This is not true. The bill explicitly states that abortion will remain illegal in the country. The problem lies in the misinterpretation of contraception for abortion, or implying that the use of contraception is synonymous with committing abortion. But the two are mutually exclusive.

Abortion, as defined by medical professionals, is the termination of pregnancy. This occurs after conception – after the sperm and egg meet. Contraception on the other hand prevents the meeting of the sperm and egg in the first place.  Its intent, therefore, is no different from natural family planning methods endorsed by the Church.

Contraceptive methods endorsed by the bill include pills, condoms, sterilization and IUDs. Pills prevent the release of the egg from the ovary. No abortion. IUDs prevent the union of the sperm and egg. No abortion. Sterilization (ligation for women and vasectomy for men) disallows the production of sperm and egg. No abortion.  Once a woman conceives, that is, becomes pregnant, contraceptive devices cannot terminate pregnancy. Pills, condoms, sterilization and IUDs are therefore not abortifacient.

There are an estimated half a million induced abortions in the Philippines annually. Most women who resort to this often emotionally scarring and painful process are married and have 2 to 3 children.* The glaring reality is that abortion is a fact in the country. The Church’s opposition to contraceptive devices will not make this go away.

The RH bill actually seeks to prevent abortion by making family planning methods readily available to those who would seek them. The bill seeks to promote both natural and artificial methods. Family planning will reduce unintended pregnancies, lowering the chance for women to resort to induced abortion.

On the Number of Children

Although the bill indicates an “ideal” number of two children per couple, this expression is in no way coercive. Parents will not be penalized for having more children. It is therefore unfair to call the bill draconian.

On Sexuality Education

The bill endorses age-appropriate sexuality education to ensure that young Filipinos have the right information in matters of sex and reproductive health. We cannot assume that upon reaching adolescence, the young will not be curious about the workings of their body.  The bill intends to instill values for the youth to exercise responsible decision-making with regard to their sexuality.

Section 12 of the bill lists the general topics of the proposed sexuality education to be incorporated in school curricula:

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

Contrary to the lurid imagination of those who, by vocation, are disallowed to engage in sexual acts, “sexuality education” does not entail pornography.  Also, only teachers who agree to teach sexuality education will undergo training.

On the Need for a National Policy

There is a pressing need for a national policy to provide reproductive health services to all Filipinos. At present this decision is relegated to local government units, which is why RH is available to residents of Quezon City but not of Manila. A national policy will ensure that RH and family planning services will be made available to all regardless of the political vicissitudes of incumbents who would heed the voices of the clergy but not of their constituents.

__________

* Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in the Philippines, Alan Guttmacher Institute and UP Population Institute, 2006.

23 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    pusongbato said,

    Another interesting article covering this is here, sourced from the NY Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/world/asia/26iht-phils.html?_r=2&pagewanted=print

  2. 2

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by KatarHol5: RT @dementia RH Bill: Fact and Fiction http://bit.ly/1EGrfv

  3. 3

    […] The Reproductive Health Bill: the Fact and the Fiction « Noypipol's Blog noypipol.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/the-reproductive-health-bill-the-fact-and-the-fiction – view page – cached Reproductive health is not new in the Philippine legislative landscape. It has gone through many permutations and versions since the 11th Congress. — From the page […]

  4. 4

    Manny said,

    Good day, Liberty.

    I am afraid you are very misinformed about ABORTIFACIENT CONTRACEPTIVES.

    Pills, IUDs, and hormonal contraceptives are not 100 effective. They do not always prevent ovulation or prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg. These are known as breakthrough ovulation and breakthrough fertilization.

    If an egg is fertilized, these contraceptives have another, “backup” mechanism: they prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg. Now many religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, as well as the Philippine Constitution itself, hold that human life begins at conception or fertilization. These types of contraceptives are therefore abortifacient. And since HB 5043 explicitly funds these types of contraceptives, it is also effectively sneaking in a form of silent abortion into teh country. It is only right — and accurate — to say that HB 5043 promotes as form of abortion.

    I have compiled some of the evidence on abortifacient contraceptives at the URL below:

    http://mamador.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/the-evil-cousins-contraception-and-abortion/

    Thanks and God bless you.

  5. 5

    Ricardo Boncan said,

    The article lacks facts! Here is a rejoinder to your article:
    1. Yes abortion remains illegal and yet chemical contraceptives may act as abortifacients since they may not only prevent conception but also implantation of an already-conceived human being. Contraceptives not only prevent release of eggs but also make the uterus of a woman hostile to the fetus being implanted. The benefit of the doubt rule should be given in favor of not using it because this may be de-facto abortion which our constitution prohibits. In the case of IUD’s, you are wrong!The device is used to prevent the implantation of a fetus and that is abortion! Read the link (http://www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/booksReports/methodaction.htm)

    2. While there is no explicit penalty for having more than two children within the bill, the other benefits like tax exemptions, preferential educational subsidies etc… will preferentially be given to families with only 2 children. That is defacto penalizing parents with bigger families and goes against the law that everyone must afford equal protection under the law!

    3. Biology and sexuality are different. The school should teach biology to students but sexuality which involves the act, the responsibility attached to it and its meaning is the sole business of the parents. The parents are the primary educators of their children therefor the government has no business enacting laws that supersede this right nor do they have any right instilling VALUES to our children, that is the parents responsibility.

    4. There is a need to reform the reproductive health care in the Philippines but it should be done from a medical standpoint like increased funding for ob/gyn services, pre-natal and post-natal care.

    We need not reinvent the wheel Mr. Senator just look at the experience of the west and see that they have progressed from contraception in the 1930’s to abortion in the 1970’s that is because abortion is back-up contraception. They ahve grayng populations as a result of decades of contraception. This RH bill is a pandora’s box. You claim to be Catholic for goodness sake back up that claim with some faith!

    • 6

      Lisa Mendrez said,

      I completely agree with the points you have given. Especially the last part.

    • 7

      noypipol said,

      Hello Ricardo,

      Here are facts, as per your request.

      http://services.inquirer.net/print/print.php?article_id=20080803-152296

      Also, please note that faith does not necessarily mean blind faith. Just because the Church says one thing means it is what you must believe with no question. Being Catholic does not mean faith in the Church, it means faith in God. And while the Church helps us get closer to God, faith is between man and the Almighty, not man, God and the Church.

      If you read the bottom part of the link above, you will see that the doctrine upon which the CBCP bases its stand against RH was adopted by the Pope DESPITE the majority of Catholic clergy and theologians recommending against the adoption of that doctrine.

      • 8

        dr.jay said,

        shut up! and listen to your heart……filipinos don’t need that bill. teach them good morals, teach them good understanding of life. we need all those people,dirty,malnourished,rich, with good heart,with bad heart. the world is sinking only those with good hearts prosper. so practice and do it right now to those people you meant to eradicate so that our soul will be save.

  6. 9

    Good day!

    As a reaction to this piece, I’m attaching a link to an Open Letter to all those running for 2010. It asks legislators and candidates: what are their platform and programme of action regarding the equal human rights of Filipino lesbians, gays, bakla, bantut, bayot, bisexuals, tomboy, transgenders, transsexuals, intersex (LGBTI) and other ’sexual and gender minorities’ (SGMs) in the country?

    http://diversityandequality.ph/index.php/2009/10/30/an-open-letter-to-legislators-and-to-those-running-for-the-2010-national-elections/

    Thank you.

  7. 10

    Lisa Mendrez said,

    I don’t get the idea why they have to keep on urging us to say YES to this ReproHealth Bill?? Why do they bother pursuing this bill when in fact there’s much bigger problems our country faces???

    It’s not the number of babies being born everyday that prevents our country’s progress but the number of greedy people we have today. All want power. All want money. All want certain position in the public office that don’t even fit them. This is what we have to cut short and not the innocent unborn children we have to nestle and nurture to be the handlers of our motherland.

    I’ll also say what Ricardo Boncan says above: why do you bother calling yourself Catholic when you are up for killings and murders???

    • 11

      noypipol said,

      If a child is not conceived, how can you abort/kill/murder? Please explain.

      • 12

        dr.jay said,

        think about this what is the sole components of contraceptives,abortifacient. Hey! it kills. anything that promotes killing begets death. the same way anything that promotes good begets life.so let us promote life at the very start.

  8. 13

    Melvin Rey Orofeo said,

    I’m Pro-Life. Yes, it’s not abortion to prevent the sperm to meet the egg, and the like. I just don’t get the point of having a law that will inform the public about their sexual rights and so on. I think, there has to be more important aspects on the country that needs the focus of our legislators. And for whatever reasons they may have, black and white, Contraceptives prevent a new life to be born. And its no difference from abortion. THE FACT that this bill “literally” contradicts a new life to be supposedly born, its clearly a synonym of abortion.

    The problem does not lie on “overpopulation”. Its just an excuse of the fact that our government can sustain the jobs needed for the people. Instead of having laws that will diminish our population, why not have laws that could help land jobs to our fellowmen? Why not we focus ourselves on getting our OFW’s back to our country?

    • 14

      noypipol said,

      Hello Melvin,

      Thank you for your comment!

      You might find this article useful, on explaining why there is a need to educate the public on their reproductive rights: United Nations urges RP to pass RH bill as matter of urgency and human rights — http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20091030-233096/UN-committee-to-RP-Pass-reproductive-health-bill

      Their report on the conditions of our women and children are quite shocking.

      Sen Aquino said, “Ignorance cannot lead to informed decisions.” With respect to the RH bill, he also stresses that the Church will not be banned from teaching natural methods, that artificial contraceptives are simply an option, and it is up to the parents to decide what is best for them, based on their health, circumstances, conscience and faith. The state will not interfere with an individual’s right to their own free choice.

      We respectfully hope this sheds some light on the issue. We urge you to continue educating yourself that you may reach an informed decision — whatever that may be, it is your choice🙂

      May God bless you and your family always,
      Noypipol

      • 15

        dr.jay said,

        teach our young good things, nice things and kind things, Godly things and you will have what you desire – an angel guiding you to God.

  9. 16

    Fatima said,

    Dear Senator Noy,

    I admire you for having a backbone to remain firm on your stand about the Reproductive Health Bill. I may not speak for my generation but a lot of us young people (the young professionals) would like to be informed about our choices when it comes to reproductive health. And a number of my friends support the passage of this bill. And a number of us are Catholics and Christians😉

  10. 17

    Bartholomew Tan said,

    the rh bill is not only draconian, it is a socialist statist totalitarian bill.

    it will force taxpayers, including Catholics, to fund the condoms and contraceptives of others.

    it will force employers to pay for and fund the condoms and contraceptives of their employees

    it will expose students to immoral ” sex education” , children don’t need sex education, they don’t even need public education, as public education is only a bottomless pit for taxpayers money.

    public education should be abolished, and private education and home schooling should be promoted instead.

    no to sex education.

    yes to abstinence before marraige.

    and yes, abstinence before marriage is the only thing you need to teach children, as that already prevents stds, sexual promiscuity etc.

    as for pornography, the pro-condom and pro-contraceptive people will always deny the presence of porn in sex education ,but experience in other countries have always proven them either wrong, or intellectually dishonest.

    also, no nation on earth has ever had taxpayer -funded contraception which did not degenerate into taxpayer funded abortion.

    the Philippines will be no exception, to think otherwise is to repeat the mistakes of other countries.

    Real Catholics and Christians will not support such socialistic statist nonsense.

    contraceptives/contraception separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act, this will inevitably lead to sexual immorality and perversion like homosexuality/pedophilia , sexual promiscuity etc etc.

  11. 18

    noypipol said,

    Thank you for your comments. While we appreciate and encourage healthy discussion, please be reminded to keep rhetoric respectful. Outrageous and offensive comments will not be tolerated.

    Maraming salamat sa inyong pag-uugnay.

  12. 19

    […] Certain representatives of the Catholic Church, a staunch and powerful opponent of the reproductive health (RH) bill, have gone as far as threatening those in favor of the controversial piece of legislation with excommunication. A somewhat less extreme reaction has been to imply or to state outright that any supporter of the RH bill would do well to leave the Church. For example, Rev. Fr. Robert S. Embile, JCL, in a letter published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 20, 2009, said that, “Any believer who does not abide with the teachings 100 percent is not a genuine Catholic.” Such reaction perhaps stems from the misconception—an erroneous one, in light of the actual provisions contained therein—that the RH bill legalizes abortion. It does not. Read about it […]

  13. 20

    […] Certain representatives of the Catholic Church, a staunch and powerful opponent of the reproductive health (RH) bill, have gone as far as threatening those in favor of the controversial piece of legislation with excommunication. A somewhat less extreme reaction has been to imply or to state outright that any supporter of the RH bill would do well to leave the Church. For example, Rev. Fr. Robert S. Embile, JCL, in a letter published in Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 20, 2009, said that, “Any believer who does not abide with the teachings 100 percent is not a genuine Catholic.” This belief perhaps stems from the misconception—an erroneous one, in light of the actual provisions contained therein—that the RH bill legalizes abortion. It does not. (Read about it.) […]

  14. 22

    the common misunderstanding seems to be that the Church opposes the RH Bill because of its potential for abortion. It goes deeper than that brothers. Here’s the Catholic Church opposition and why: http://http://www.catholic.com/library/Birth_Control.asp

    As for following its teachings it always is up to you, the Christian faith has never been coercive but it has never been afraid to call things as they are. if you do not follow Catholic Teaching, why call yourself catholic? If all catholics would follow catholic teachings “except for one or a few things..” there would be thousands of catholic sects in such a short time(Your Catholicism, My catholicism, his catholicism, her catholicism, their catholicism, our catholicism).. That would be obviously absurd. So either promote trust for the teachings of the bride of Christ(it is called faith. which from the article is obviously a well-reasoned out faith) or promoteleaning on one’s own understanding. It will always be up to you. Read the article and arm yourself, to better to reach a well-informed decision.

    • 23

      henry loyola said,

      How can you not realize, conception does not begins when there is
      no union of an egg, and the sperm. There is no life from the start,
      How can you call this pro-abortion. using condom prevent us from
      making right choices.I believe “GOD” is using Absolute good science,
      Technology,and good Doctors.We also need to educate our people
      about Financial Family Planning, because majority of our population
      is Financially Corrupt, Not only we are populating our country, but
      we are cluttering it.”GOD” said in Gennesis: Be Multiply, but be
      Responsible. Faith with out action is dead.”JESUS”said in Mathew:
      Be aware before generation many religious righteous,or false prophet
      will come,many will be deciieve,and many will suffer,They will try
      to figure “ME”out base upon their own religion,or ligalistic Mentality.
      they will condem “MY” People by “MY”sake just like when they
      persecuted “ME” at the Cross with their own righteousness,They
      appear so beautifull outward,but inside they are full of dead mens
      bone.even thou they are prophesising My “NAME”,but you hypocrite
      you practice lawlessnes,and wickedness, “I” never knew you.
      No one comes to the “FATHER”except to”ME”. “I AM THE WAY,
      THE TRUTH,AND LIFE”.By “My” Grace you are save,not because
      of your own good works,or your own righteousnes.If you think
      this religeous righteous,the political power,and the people power
      will save the world,you must be on denial, and if 90 percent of our
      population dont have “GODLY” Moral Principle, Biblical Knowledge,
      and “GODLY” Moral Character, 90 percent will suffer.Depart from
      “HIM” our worse enemy live inside us.History is “GOD” Story.
      Its not about your Tita Corry,or anyone else.our form of
      Government,or our form of Leadership is base upon “GOD”
      Standard,because you are the church of the holy spirit,
      lack of knowledge people perish,Pride,Ego,Selfrighteous,and
      popularity,is the greatest sin in the Bible.”GOD BLESS PHILIPPINES”


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