Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why the Reproductive Health Bill Should Become Law

The debate over the reproductive health bill is starting to heat up again with Congress set to reopen on May 9 when lawmakers expect this bill to be taken up. The Catholic Church has expressed its grave opposition to this bill going as far as threatening Philippine President Noynoy Aquino with excommunication for supporting it. The President, on the other hand, is unfazed by this threat saying he will risk excommunication by the church just to get this bill approved. Naturally, a lot of people are expressing their opinions about this so called RH bill. Some are for it while others are adamantly against it. 

The Reproductive Health Bill calls for the following basic provisions:
  • the provision of medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable and effective reproductive health care services and supplies
  • promotion, without bias, of all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal
  • ensuring that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner
  • age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education will be required from grade five to fourth year high school
  • a multi-dimensional approach that integrates a component of family planning and responsible parenthood into all government anti-poverty programs
  • mandates the Department of Labor and Employment to guarantee the reproductive health rights of its female employees
  • any person or public official who prohibits or restricts the delivery of legal and medically safe reproductive health care services will be meted penalty by imprisonment or a fine
Population and Poverty
Both camps of the opposing sides cite economic studies supporting or disputing the effects of population growth on poverty. It is difficult to actually verify their findings but it’s easy enough to see poor neighbors who have more kids than they can afford to feed. I do not believe that having more kids is the cause of poverty in the Philippines but I do think it’s just common sense for a family who is struggling financially not to increase its size. This is not to deny anyone of their right to multiply but we must always think of the human being that will be put into this world. I don’t think it is right for us to cause human suffering simply because we did not think about what our actions might do.

Abortion Remains Illegal
Providing care for post-abortion complications is one of the controversial provisions of the bill since abortion is illegal in this country. When this bill becomes law, it will not make abortion legal but it will ensure women needing care in case of abortion complications will be treated. The Church fears that this bill is a step towards legalizing abortion and they might be right. The World Health Organization states that safe, legal abortion is a "fundamental right of women, irrespective of where they live" and unsafe abortion (practiced in this country) is a "silent pandemic". I do not think, however, that the people are ready to entertain the idea of legalizing abortion. Legal or not, women are going for abortion for various reasons. It will be cruel to deny these women the care they need in case of complications. 

Compassionate and Thinking Catholics
I find the statements of 14 professors from the Ateneo de Manila University, a Catholic school, worth considering. They said:
"Studies show that the majority of women who go for an abortion are married or in a consensual union (91%), the mother of three or more children (57%), and poor (68%). For these women, terminating a pregnancy is an anguished choice they make in the face of severe constraints. When women who had attempted an abortion were asked their reasons for doing so, their top three responses were: they could not afford the economic cost of raising another child (72%); their pregnancy occurred too soon after the last one (57%); and they already have enough children (54%). One in ten women (13%) who had attempted an abortion revealed that this was because her pregnancy resulted from forced sex. Thus, for these women, abortion has become a family planning method, in the absence of information on and access to any reliable means to prevent an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy."
I cannot think of more powerful arguments for the Reproductive Health bill than these statements.

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