Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do we need this RH Bill HB 4244?

THE Philippine Constitution states:
The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the government”. (Sec 12, Art II)
The State shall defend the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood”. (Sec 3(1) Art XV)
The State shall defend “the right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.” (Sec 3 Art XV)

1. Due commendation is to be given to the authors of the bill 4244 when they made several amendments to it on March 15, 2011. The amendments take away some of its objectionable features. The amendments are:
a. The wording on Sec 13 asking the barangay health workers and volunteers to “be capacitated to give priority to family planning work” was changed. The phrase “give priority to family planning work” is deleted. Barangay health workers are not there to prioritize reproductive health. There are so many health issues to be addressed, and very grave and basic ones too, in our barangays.
b. In Sec 15 the Mobile Health Care Service that each congressional district are mandated to have will no longer be funded from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly known as the Pork Barrel, but instead “the procurement and operation of which shall be funded by the National Government”. This may be a way to get the support of some congress men and women who do not want their Pork Barrel to be reduced. This is more of a political ploy.
c. The controversial Sec 16 which deals with sex education entitled: “Mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” has been diluted with the addition of another paragraph which reads: “Parents shall exercise the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to reproductive health and sexuality education.” This may be a concession but how many parents will exercise this option, and whether their option will be respected in our public schools.
d. Sec 20 on the “Ideal Family Size” has been totally deleted, and rightly so. While this section recognized the rights of parents on how many children they may have, still it is suggested that two children is the ideal. A law, if it is a law, is mandatory and not exhortatory.
e. Sec 21 on “Employers’ Responsibilities” has been entirely deleted on the reason that “this provision is a restatement and amplification of the existing Art 134 of the Labor Code.”
f. Another contentious section is on the Prohibited Acts, Sec 28 (e). One of the prohibited acts is “any person who maliciously engages in the disinformation about the intent and provisions of this act.” This infringes on the freedom of expression. This part is deleted.

2. With these amendments, can we say that the bill 4244 is now acceptable? I say no! The some basic objectionable elements are still there.

3. Reproductive Health is now seen by its international promoters as including the control of population, the provision of abortion, the promotion of contraception (including agents and methods known to be abortifacient), promotion of a particular form of sexuality education, and the promotion of an ethic with regard to sexuality that separates it from life and self-giving love. Though the present bill says that it does not promote abortion yet it cannot detached itself from the ideology espoused by the language of reproductive health. The elements of the reproductive health ideology are in the present bill.

4. There is no mention of the sexual act. Mention is made of pregnancies and HIV and STI, which are results of sexual actions. The bill wants to prevent the results but do not attack the root. Results are to be controlled but not the sexual actions. In a way it brings the message: any sexual activity is alright, just prevent its undesirable consequences, which are sexuality transmitted deceases and pregnancy!

5. There is no mention of the value of life of the unborn, the value of family, and the value of the sexual act. However, by promoting contraception devices a value is being subtly put forward without even mentioning it: one can engage in sex as long as one does not get unwanted pregnancy or one does not get sick. In truth if one does not want to get unwanted pregnant and sexual disease the solution that is and without cost and complication is to abstain from any inappropriate sexual behavior. But proper sexual values are not promoted. There is even no mention of abstinence and fidelity in marriage in the bill.

6. There are many provisions that say that devices, commodities, and supplies are to be promoted, made available and provided. This already shows the bias towards artificial family planning methods which would have need of these supplies. Money is to be given for these supplies and commodities to make them available while no mention of money being spent on teaching people, which natural planning methods require. The mention of the natural family planning is just a palliative in the bill with no real intention of promoting it. Instead there is great intent to promote the “devices”.

7. Sec. 10 entitled “Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines” is totally unacceptable! Medicines are for the sick. What sickness do “Family Planning Supplies” cure? These supplies are surely contraceptive pills, IUDs and condoms. Except in particular cases contraceptives do not treat any medical condition. On the contrary they are used upon perfectly healthy women to restrict a natural function. The government cannot even procure real basic medicines as paracetamols, anti-biotics and other basic medicines, and we will stretch out our meager resources to buy commodities that can be done away with with enough information and responsible self-control. By labeling these agents as essential medicines, the bill promotes inaccuracy. They place matters within the province of choice alongside those which are largely outside of it. That is to say, healthy people can choose whether to use contraceptives or not, unhealthy peoples’ choices are seriously limited and their need for genuinely essential medicines is realistic and warranted.

8. The money to be spent to provide for this “essential medicine” will be taxpayers’ money. Most of the taxpayers are Catholics in this country and their money will be spent on something that they believe to be wrong and immoral. (Will you allow your money to be used to buy condoms and pills to be given to the people?) Let the people who believe in the good of these devices provide them freely to others. No one is hindering them from doing it. They have freedom of choice. These devices are already available in the market in the first place. If the government wants to help the poor let it give them the basic necessities: light, water, truly basic medicine, free hospitalization, basic education, and the like.

9. The basic presupposition of this bill is that the number of children and consequently the number of population is a hindrance to sustainable development. This has already been debunked by many studies. This fallacy is so prevailing that great responsibility to execute this bill, if it becomes a law, is given to the Commission on Population both in the LGU and the national level. For the authors of this bill reproductive health is an issue of population and not of health. All the talks about “reproduction” and “health” are misnomers or may even be an intent to deceive. Yes, it is true that the PopCom is under DOH, but why should it be? Is population a disease?

10. It is known in the medical field that the artificial planning devices that are in use are not 100% sure both in protecting oneself from STI and “protecting” oneself from pregnancy. This makes the idea of “protection” dangerous. With the confidence given by this “protection” as advertised by the proponents, people will engage more, and not less, in inappropriate sexual activities. With more frequent sexual activities the effectivity of their “protection” lowers down. They put themselves all the more at risk.

11. The artificial devices also have medical side-effects and are shown to lead to certain diseases, such as cancer, high blood and cardiovascular diseases. Naturally so! One is putting something in the body that should not be there! There is no mention in the bill that the women who are victims of these devices will be provided with free health care afterwards. The bill claims to champion the health of women but in truth and in the long run it does harm to them. Besides, with the claim of men that they are now “protected” they will easily deal with the women as objects to be used and not as persons to be respected.

12. Other countries have the reproductive health services in place for many years already but they still have the problems that our law makers claim will be solved by this bill:
a. Even more abortions. In fact they have to legalize abortion in these countries. In international circles abortion is part of the reproductive right! Either the promoters of HB 4244 are naïve or they are cunningly deceptive when they say that they are not for abortion. All those who promote contraception end up upholding abortion, if they are consistent with their position of contra-ception!
b. Even more teen-age pregnancies, so more unwanted pregnancies. This is the result of more promiscuity and less respect which stems from the ideology of contraception. By the way, there is no mention the word ‘contraception’ in the bill but its ideology is all over in the language of ‘Reproductive Health’.
c. Their poor people are not improved by the availability of these devices. The poor do not get a better chance in life even if they have fewer children if basic services are not given to them and if the perspective of governance is pro-foreign investment rather than harnessing local resources, pro-investor rather than pro-labor, increased GDP rather than equity.

13. There is the concern that many people die because of unwanted pregnancies. Many of these devices, IUDs and Pills among them, are contraceptives and abortifacients. They really kill the life that is already there. The bill and the contraceptive mentality behind it do not recognize the equal dignity of life of all—preferring that of the woman than that of the child that she had engendered. It is killing the ones who are innocent and defenseless. No wonder insensitivity to life in contraception eventually leads to abortion.

14. In is noteworthy that the bill speaks both of the youth and the adolescent. It defines who the adolescent is but not who the youth is. It really targets the adolescent, both for its sex education and for the services of its “devices.”

15. There are several good provisions in the bill. Among them are Sec 5 “Midwives for skilled attendance” and Sec 6 “Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care”. Both demand that there beenough personnel and hospital facilities to address maternal care. Both end with this sentence: “Provided that people in geographically isolated and depressed areas shall be provided the same level of access.” Beautiful words, but will the government do this? The bill does not provide where the money shall come from for these services, and this is indeed a very basic need which can really address a lot of deaths and sufferings among women and children. Are these then just dressings to the real intent of the bill, not to really help the poor and the women but to put forward the contraceptive mentality?

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