should you support the reproductive health bill?

I wrote with utmost joy on the latest survey findings from the Social Weather Stations, which said that majority of Filipinos are in favor of passing the controversial Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 (HB No. 5043).

The survey can be read in full at http://www.sws.org.ph/pr081016.htm, but to summarize, it found that around seven in every 10 adult Filipinos said they favored the passage of the RH bill (71 percent), and about three in every four (76 percent) agreeing with the statement, “There should be a law that requires government to teach family planning to the youth.”

Quoting SWS: “Support for both family planning education and for passage of the RH Bill is very high among both Catholics and non-Catholics. Regularity of church-going and trust in the Catholic church have no effect on support for the RH bill.”

The survey was conducted from Sept. 24 to Sept. 27 this year. It used face-to-face interviews a total of 1,500 respondents (even more than the usual 1,200 respondents in other surveys from SWS). It had a margin of error of plus-minus 2.5 percentage points. (Unfortunately, this vital paragraph was cut from my story that came out this morning in the paper for lack of space.)

Of course, surveys are surveys, and people have varied opinions as to how to view survey results. Some people use favorable survey results to further their causes, and I am doing exactly that - this time, to bat for the passage of the Reproductive Health bill.

Ayway, I would like to finally tackle THAT ad from a well-known group actively campaigning against the passage of the RH bill. I have nothing personal against their group, but I have noticed the horrible and misleading angle in which their ad has been cast. I’m sure you’ve seen it in a major broadsheet. It’s in the form of a checklist.

Take for example, the first item, which seemingly appeals to the interests of employers:

Quote from ad: As employers, do you agree to be compelled to provide free reproductive health care services, supplies, devices and surgical procedures (including vasectomy and ligation) to your employees, and be subjected to both imprisonment and/or a fine, for every time that you fail to comply?

Actually: Sec. 17 of HB 5043, in full, provides:

“SEC. 17. Employers’ Responsibilities. – Employers shall respect the reproductive health rights of all their workers. Women shall not be discriminated against in the matter of hiring, regularization of employment status or selection for retrenchment.

All Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) shall provide for the free delivery by the employer of reasonable quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers, more particularly women workers. In establishments or enterprises where there are no CBAs or where the employees are unorganized, the employer shall have the same obligation.”

Another item seemingly appeals to the interests of health care service providers:

Quote from ad: “As health care service providers, do you agree that you should be subjected to imprisonment and/or a fine, if you fail to provide reproductive health care services such as giving information on family planning methods and providing services like ligation and vasectomy, regardless of the patient’s civil status, gender, religion or age?”

Actually, in full, Sec. 21 of HB 5043 provides:

“SEC. 21. Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:
a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:

1. Knowingly withhold information or impede the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods;

2. Refuse to perform voluntary ligation and vasectomy and other legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization.

3. Refuse to provide reproductive health care services to an abused minor, whose abused condition is certified by the proper official or personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to duly DSWD-certified abused pregnant minor on whose case no parental consent is necessary.

4. Fail to provide, either deliberately or through gross or inexcusable negligence, reproductive health care services as mandated under this Act, the Local Government Code of 1991, the Labor Code, and Presidential Decree 79, as amended; and

5. Refuse to extend reproductive health care services and information on account of the patient’s civil status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work: Provided, That all conscientious objections of health care service providers based on religious grounds shall be respected: Provided, further, That the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, finally, That the patient is not in an emergency or serious case as defined in RA 8344 penalizing the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases.”

That last paragraph is especially interesting — it turns out the bill even provides a sort of cushion for health service providers, who could object or refuse on gounds of religion!

Quote from ad: “As a spouse, do you agree that your husband or wife can undergo a ligation or vasectomy without your consent or knowledge?”

To review, actually: in full, the provision in question prohibits health care service providers from refusing “to perform voluntary ligation and vasectomy and other legal and medically-safe reproductive health care services on any person of legal age on the ground of lack of spousal consent or authorization”

The crafty ad simply added  “or knowledge” to make it sound so sinister and secret. But in truth, whose consent does one really need to do something medically safe and legal anyway? It’s my body and I’ll do what I want to.

Quote from ad: “As parents, do you agree that children from age 10 to 17 should be taught their sexual rights and the means to have a satisfying and “safe” sex life as part of their curriculum?”

Actually, in full, the bill defines “Reproductive Health Education” as “the process of acquiring complete, accurate and relevant information on all matters relating to the reproductive system, its functions and processes and human sexuality; and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy and gender roles. It also includes developing the necessary skills to be able to distinguish between facts and myths on sex and sexuality; and critically evaluate and discuss the moral, religious, social and cultural dimensions of related sensitive issues such as contraception and abortion.

In full, the section in question provides:

“SEC. 12. Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. -  Recognizing the importance of reproductive health rights in empowering the youth and developing them into  responsible adults, Reproductive Health Education in an age-appropriate manner shall be taught by adequately trained teachers starting from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School. In order to assure the prior training of teachers on reproductive health, the implementation of Reproductive Health Education shall commence at the start of the school year one year following the effectivity of this Act. The POPCOM, in coordination with the Department of Education, shall formulate the Reproductive Health Education curriculum, which shall be common to both public and private schools and shall include related population and development concepts in addition to the following subjects and standards:

a. Reproductive health and sexual rights;
b. Reproductive health care and services;
c. Attitudes, beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behavior and sexual health;
d. Proscription and hazards of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;
e. Responsible parenthood;
f. Use and application of natural and modern family planning methods to promote reproductive health, achieve desired family size and prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies;
g. Abstinence before marriage;
h. Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDs, prostate cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer and other gynecological disorders; 
i. Responsible sexuality; and
j. Maternal, peri-natal and post-natal education, care and services

In support of the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth, the POPCOM 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.

In the elementary level, reproductive health education shall focus, among others, on values formation.”

I find it appalling and utterly backward to still equate reproductive health education with promoting pre-marital sex. That’s the biggest nonsequitur ever.

The ad ends with the paragraph:

“If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, then you are not for RH Bill no. 5043. Read the bill. You will find more objectionable provisions such as losing our parental authority over a minor child who was raped and found pregnant, reclassifying contraceptives as essential medicines and appropriating limited government funds to reproductive services instead of basic services.”

Truth is, the bill does prohibit health care providers from refusing “to provide reproductive health care services to an abused minor, whose abused condition is certified by the proper official or personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) or to duly DSWD-certified abused pregnant minor on whose case no parental consent is necessary.”

Well, I don’t see how any minor who has been abused and raped by an older parent can get reproductive health care from said abusive parent or with said abusive parent’s consent in the first place. I think the group’s concern to continually yield their parental power is at best selfish.

This is of course not to disrespect my own parents, who have been nothing but supportive especially with my sexuality, nor to disrespect other parents who have been very supportive and open as well.

I have no problem in reclassifying contraceptives as essential medicine.

As a taxpayer, I also have no problem with the government channeling my taxes into reproductive services (even as I do not need them on a regular basis because hello, what for) because I believe they should be part of basic services in the first place. It’s better than financing billboards, signage and advertisements of government officials, in my opinion.

And so, I answer the question the ad poses: Should you support RH Bill no. 5043?

Why not?

One Response to “should you support the reproductive health bill?”

  1. chi Says:

    go go go RH 5043!