To Control Or Not to Control: Is the RH Bill Necessary?

Will it solve the Philippines’ problems?

Some experts on bioethics say that while they commend efforts to improve the quality of life of the Filipino people and that they agree that there is a need to address present problems in reproductive health, they do not think House Bill No. 5043 address these in a holistic manner for it focuses mainly on pregnancy prevention.

A statement titled “Consensus Statement on Reproductive Bill 5043”, which was signed and approved by Southeast Asian Center for Bioethics, argued that while sex education is an important part in the integral development of the child, the responsibility lies first with the parents.

The statement was signed by Fr. Fausto B. Gomez, OP; Angeles T. Alora, MD; Edna Monzon, MD, president of the Catholic Physicians’ Guild of the Philippines and chairman of Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas, chair of the Department of Bioethics at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Medicine and Surgery; Mayumi Bismark, MD, president of the Bioethics Society of the Philippines; and Mrs. Lucia V. Soltes of the Catholic Nurses Guild of the Philippines in 2008.

“Their role should be stressed. It should also involve the school with teachers who should be educated. The absence of content regarding values in the way sex education is being taught gives an impression that there is no universal value, human sexuality, not sex education, should be taught,” the statement reads.

“The program should provide information and definitions which are accurate and free of contradictions: the antiabortion stance of the bill is contraindicated by the promotion of contractive agents (IUD and hormonal contraceptives) which actually act after fertilization and are potentially abortifacient agents,” the statement further read.

“Nevertheless, clinical decisions, as permeated by RH, cannot be mandated (refusing to refer patients to family planning services based on conscientious objection is penalized) but must be left to the informed conscience of the health practitioner.”

“Human freedom is a universal right. Health professionals and educators should be free to conscientiously object without fear of penalty and sanction,” the statement stressed.

However, the FFPD and other RH advocates maintained:

We strongly believe that couples, especially women, should be given the freedom to choose the path they will take in raising their family. This is a commitment our country made several times. We affirmed this right in 1968, during the International Year for Human Rights where United Nations Member States recognized the right of individuals and couples to decide their family size. In August 1981, the Philippines ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which clearly upholds women’s right to reproductive health services and education. And in 1995, we again made a promise to the rest of the world to provide our people with access to reproductive health services when we signed the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action and the Beijing Conference on Women Programme of Action.

We have been waiting for decades for our country to honor its commitments to the world – to make real its promise to uphold our people’s right to reproductive health and family planning. While we have waited and debated for decades on the matter, our women and young girls have been suffering and thousands have lost their lives – 10 women are dying every 24 hours due to pregnancy related complications, while young girls as young as 13 years old are getting pregnant. This because they lack the information and family planning supplies that would have provided them with an option.

We need to join hands for this national legislation that will bring tremendous improvements in the lives of our people. This is not about politics or religion. This is about, believing that each one of us should have the chance to live a healthy and dignified life, a human right that must be upheld regardless of one’s faith and belief.

The latest SWS survey about the acceptance of the bill showed that 71 percent of respondents are in favor of the pending RH bill, while 76 percent support the bill’s provision requiring public schools to teach family planning education.(Bulatlat.com)

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