Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill) or now known as “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.”It’s really not easy defending this bill especially if a lot of Filipinos are looking at children running around Metro Manila looking shabbily clothed, uneducated and uncared for by their parents. I do understand where the pro-RH Bill people are coming from because I had once been very vocal in supporting this bill. It’s really heartbreaking seeing children with seemingly no future because their parents cannot provide them what they need—proper education, at least three meals a day, and even play time because some were know working in the streets in a tender age of three years old. But would RH Bill really help them?
I would say it again and again: No, it won’t and I oppose it not merely on my faith.
Firstly, it would cost us reportedly, P5 BILLION A YEAR. What can P5 BILLION do? A lot, most especially for the existing Filipinos now. It would mean roads, bridges and perhaps a new light rail system. It could also mean subsidy for businesses and economic growth and employment. It could also mean more classrooms, books and teachers for the poor elementary children who are sardine inside (or sometimes even outside room, under the tree) the classrooms, not knowing if they are really picking up something from their lessons. However, this brings me to the question that what would exactly P5 BILLION PESOS do for RH Bill? Don’t you think that it’s too much for the government to spend even if they are going to supply ALL fertile and poor couples in the Philippines, condoms and pills for the whole year? To set aside that money makes me think that it would go somewhere else like the pockets of our “honorable” Solons or government officials.
The more than 90 million Filipinos is the excuse of our government officials on why a country booming of natural resources is poor. I will have to say this again: we are not. It’s just that about 40% of our resources are shared by the upper 10% of the population. This is not a case of overpopulation but unequal distribution of wealth. Corruption is without a doubt the poison of the Philippine society. Didn’t most Filipinos express their lament over corruption when they elected Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino as President a year ago because of his slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”?
As an economist, it has been stressed by our professors back in college that there is no correlation on population and poverty rate. In fact, the richest nations in the world have biggest population like the United States and Japan. Emerging nations like China and India are also booming with population. Labor is an important arm of business. We are blessed with labor and what the government just needs to do is continually open opportunities and employment to all especially the 7% who are unemployed in our country. I think these things have more right to be discussed in Congress rather than the useless RH Bill.
Secondly, I do not understand why RH Bill is all about being pro-choice. Whoever says that we, people who are against the RH Bill, are against choice? In fact, as a follower of Christianity like the 92.5% of the entire Philippine population, I believe in freewill. This freewill may be based on the Christian religion but it is also impliedly protected by Article 3-The Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution.
Hence, you and your spouse can always choose whatever means that you would like for your family. Really. But from what are you really choosing from? Well, the bill provides for nothing but Birth Control Measures which may be potentially be harmful to health, more on this later. However, could you really call this provision as pro-choice for couples?
Sec. 28 (2) of The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011:
Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:
a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:
2.) Refuse to perform legal and medically-safe reproductive health procedures on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of third party consent or authorization. In case of married persons, the mutual consent of the spouses shall be preferred. However in case of disagreement, the decision of the one undergoing the procedure shall prevail. In the case of abused minors where parents and/or other family members are the respondent, accused or convicted perpetrators as certified by the proper prosecutorial office or court, no prior parental consent shall be necessary (emphasis supplied by author)
Why would the State allow such provision? I cannot comprehend it especially when they had opened the provisions of the Family Code (Executive Order 207) with:
Article 1. Marriage is a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property relations during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.
How would you protect marriage if the consent of the spouse is not required if the other spouse wants ligation or vasectomy? This provision would really cause domestic disagreements and even a ground for annulment. It is very possible that a spouse may feel offended knowing that the other spouse had vasectomy or ligation without the former’s consent. It’s not up to one couple to decide how many children they would want into marriage. It’s a two-way process. Also, wouldn’t this act be considered as fraudulent? This would result into a marriage with no trust, an unhappy marriage. Worst, this may lead to extrajudicial separation. As we all know, the State considers marriage as sacred because it affects not only the couples but their original nuclear family and outstandingly, their children. Is giving a choice that may be considered unhelpful or injurious to others can be considered as a real choice? Is something stemming out from pure selfishness considered as choice?
Moving on, let me discuss the other hazards of the “choices” under birth control mean. This clearly is a contradictory to the claims of the Pro-RH Bill that this Bill is in fact, Pro-Woman. How can it be Pro-Woman when one of the most readily available hormonal contraceptives is increasing the risk of breast, ovarian, endometrial, cervical and liver cancers? Ironically, even the pro-RH Bill figure, former Secretary Cabral affirms this fact. Intrauterine Devices or more popularly known as IUD cannot 100% prevent pregnancy and it may even lead into several side effects like bleeding, irregular menstruations and a high risk of ectopic pregnancy. Injectables are also coupled with a lot of side effects like irregular menstruation up to a year of no menstrual bleeding, loss of bone mass, frequent headaches, anemia and loss of sexual libido (which is a very bad news for the husband). Lastly, other allied reproductive health products would include the famous condom. It carries with it 15% of failure to prevent pregnancy even in perfect use. But the nature of condom would also lessen sexual height because you still have to put it at the middle of the sexual activity. Some are even allergic to latex which is the material which condoms are made.
The RH Bill gives an illusion that married couples would have “safe sex” if they use all these birth control measures but clearly, with the symptoms and none of those measures have 100% chance that pregnancy would be prevented, the doctors discovered through thorough research would not call this “safe”. In any case, the women are the most affected with all the side effects of the use of these birth control measures. Again, I ask, why would the State agree with a Bill that would heightened the health risk of its women?
Despite of this, there is absolutely NOTHING preventing one from accessing the birth control measures that the RH Bill emphasized as “choices”. They are readily available in the market, especially the condoms. A minor could buy a handful of that in convenience stores like Mini-Stop or 7/11. But why do we need to make it into a law? By all means, avail of the birth control measures. It’s available and you have freedom to do so. Hence, RH Bill would be superfluous under our current laws.
Thirdly, I believe that proper education is the real solid foundation needed by our nation to be the backbone of our country’s development that would be sustainable. This leads us now to yet other controversial provisions on sex education:
SEC. 16. Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education
Age-appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall be taught by adequately trained teachers in formal and non-formal educational system starting from Grade Five up to Fourth Year High School using life-skills and other approaches. Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall commence at the start of the school year immediately following one (1) year from the effectivity of this Act to allow the training of concerned teachers. The Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Health (DOH) shall formulate the Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education curriculum. Such curriculum shall be common to both public and private schools, out of school youth, and enrollees in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) based on, but not limited to, the following, the psycho-social and the physical wellbeing, the demography and reproductive health, and the legal aspects of reproductive health.
Age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education shall be integrated in all relevant subjects and shall include, but not limited to, the following topics:
“(a) Values formation;
“(b) Knowledge and skills in self protection against discrimination, sexual violence and abuse, and teen pregnancy;
“(c) Physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents;
“(d) Children’s and women’s rights;
“(e) Fertility awareness;
“(f) STI, HIV and AIDS;
“(g) Population and development;
“(h) Responsible relationship;
“(i) Family planning methods;
‘(j) Proscription and hazards of abortion;
“(k) Gender and development; and
“(l) Responsible parenthood.
The DepEd, CHED, DSWD, TESDA, and DOH shall provide concerned parents with adequate and relevant scientific materials on the age-appropriate topics and manner of teaching reproductive health education to their children.
Parents shall exercise the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education. (emphasis supplied by author)
I agree much on what the legislators wants the people to learn about sex. I studied in a non-sectarian elementary and high school. I have to agree that at Fifth Grade, topics on sexuality must first start. I think that most of us girls had our first menstrual period at this age which in due course made significant changes in the body. The boys also had significant changes in their bodies too. Their voice began to deepen and they started outgrowing us girls. Their hormones also began to have their curiosity on sex as the gossip on various boys bringing pornography materials to school started to be rampant. For this reason, this is the perfect time to be guided on these a number of changes that we are encountering both physically and mentally. I laud my teachers in home economics then who even separated our class from the boys (who had their own class but with a male teacher) when we had our topic on puberty. We were able to direct our questions to our teacher without fear or embarrassment as we are all girls in our class. I think all schools must follow the same and this must be repeated every year so the youth would remember these in mind and heart.
It’s proper to know our body first and what it’s function because it would lead us to the wonderful fact that perhaps someday, a girl would be a mother and her body is preparing her for that and the boys would be fathers and his strong body is meant to work for the sake of that child who would be continue forth with our generation. That is the essential aspect that must be emphasized to the youth beginning at puberty—that sex is for procreation and that you are a human being which differs from animals because of dignity and that enables you to think and not have sex to anyone at any time.
In addition, I call our teachers to teach children budgeting to underscore that marriage life and parenthood comes not only with responsibility but with a price tag to make it work. I also want them to let the children learn to value their youth and that there is no need to rush or be pressured on marrying early. Lastly, I want our youth to be taught to dream and hold on to that dream in order to make it a reality. If they hold onto their dream, they would be more focused on their studies or craft which would make their inquisitiveness on other aspects like sex significantly lower. Also, a good education could lead them to doors of opportunity that may in time help their family alleviate from their current pecuniary status. In brief, I agree with the educational plan of the framers of RH Bill about sexual education.
However, it’s a whole different story when it comes to I and J.
In Letter I, the youth would be taught to use the birth control measures in class. However, how would the curriculum be? This provision would also be dangerous for our society in the long run. First, the RH Bill’s aim is to give all information about birth control measures for “married couples” only. It is deadly if it is also taught to the very curious youth in school who may want to try these measures within themselves. Wouldn’t that be a cause to premarital sex or worse, teenage pregnancy or spread of sexually transmitted disease eventually among our youth?
In Letter J, when I first read the RH Bill, I did not exactly understand what the conservatives and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is clamoring about because I put emphasis on reading the measures and read nothing about abortion as one of the “choices” in RH Bill. But if it is not in the choices, why would there be a need to study it? If the RH Bill supporters claim that they, too, are against abortion because of the word “proscription” or “banning”, then what are the words management of post-abortion complications for which is also under the same bill in Sec. 3 (J) of the same bill? In layman’s language it’s as if you’re telling the children that yes, abortion is banned but in case the “choices” or birth control measures did not work for you, you may want to try abortion as well because we’ll also teach you how you would manage the complications that you will be facing AFTER you committed abortion. This is a very, very dangerous provision. It would be the root of possible legalization of abortion in the Philippines. And even if abortion would never be legalized, if the idea of abortion was instilled in the minds of the youth, a number of them would probably resort to illegal abortion clinics and illegal abortion would even be more widespread. I stress again that it’s a crime under our Revised Penal Code under Articles 256-259. But would this be still in the future?
Truth be told, that I am not completely Anti-RH Bill especially when it comes to Maternal Health Care but then again, this could be solidified in another bill. But, RH Bill in conclusion, I am against RH Bill because it directs persons to be irresponsible for their action on family planning because of reliance to carcinogenic pills, defective intrauterine devices among others. These wrongs obviously do not make the RH Bill right no matter how good the intention of the framers may be. These short-term solutions are not only health-risk to woman but in the end, it would weaken the society. What this country need are long-term solutions like employment, lowering of cost of doing business, distribution of land and modern farming techniques to farmers and classrooms and teachers for our youth. There are way too many issues that need to be addressed. I challenge everyone to read, research and understand the RH Bill. Do not reply merely on what you see.