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• REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH HOUSE BILL NO.

96

The Reproductive Health Bill, popularly known as the RH Bill, is a Philippine bill
aiming to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control and
maternal care. The bill has become the center of a contentious national debate. There are
presently two bills with the same goals: House Bill No. 96 or the Reproductive Health Act
and Population and Development Act of 2010 introduced by Albay 1st district
representative Edcel Lagman, and Senate Bill No. 2378 or the Reproductive Health Act
introduced by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

While there is general agreement about its provisions on maternal and child health,
there is great debate on its key proposal that the Filipino taxpayer and the private sector will
fund and undertake widespread distribution of family planning devices such as birth control
pills (BCPs) and IUDs, as the government continues to disseminate information on their use
through all health care centers. Private companies and the public and private elementary and
secondary school system will be required to participate in this information and product
dissemination as a way of controlling the population of the Philippines.[1]

The bill is highly controversial, with experts, academics, religious institutions, and
major political figures both supporting and opposing it, often criticizing the government and
each other in the process. The issue is so divisive that at one point, the Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines threatened to excommunicate the President, Benigno Aquino
III if he supported the bill.

Reproductive Health Care - refers to the state of complete physical, mental and social
well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the
reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to
have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom
to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This
further implies that women and men attain equal relationships in matters related to sexual
relations and reproduction.[7]

House Bill 96 replaces "have a satisfying and safe sex life" with "enjoy responsible
and safe sex" but is otherwise identical in its definition. House Bill 1160 omits "a satisfying
and" but is otherwise identical. House Bill 3387 omits the word "complete" before physical,
and replaces "attain" with "are afforded," but is otherwise identical.[7]

Reproductive Rights are defined by House Bills 101, 513, 1160, 3387, and Senate
Bill 2378 as follows:

The rights of individuals and couples, to decide freely and responsibly whether or not
to have children; the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make other decisions
concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have the
information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive
health.[7]House Bill 96 replaces "other decisions" with "allied decisions," but is otherwise
identical.[7]
The opposition says that by supporting such definitions, the country will guarantee
this same right of having "a satisfying and safe sex life" and the freedom of decision to
unmarried children and teenagers, since they are "people" and "individuals." They argue that
this will lead to promiscuity among the young.[8] They say that the terminology is part of
deceptive "verbal engineering" since RH is not in favor of reproduction, and contraceptives
are not healthy, but RH is presented as something good.

• PURPOSE OF THIS BILL

One of the main concerns of the bill, according to the Explanatory Note, is that
population of the Philippines makes it “the 12th most populous nation in the world today”,
that the Filipino women’s fertility rate is “at the upper bracket of 206 countries.” It states that
studies and surveys “show that the Filipinos are responsive to having smaller-sized families
through free choice of family planning methods.” It also refers to studies which “show that
rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth.”
And so it aims for improved quality of life through a “consistent and coherent national
population policy.”

The bill mandates the government to “promote, without bias, all effective natural and
modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.”[3]

Although abortion is recognized as illegal and punishable by law, the bill states that
“the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications
shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.”[3]

The bill calls for a “multi-dimensional approach” integrates a component of family


planning and responsible parenthood into all government anti-poverty programs.[3]

Under the bill, age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education is


required from grade five to fourth year high school using “life-skills and other approaches.”[3]

The bill also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment to guarantee the
reproductive health rights of its female employees. Companies with less than 200 workers are
required to enter into partnership with health care providers in their area for the delivery of
reproductive health services.[3]

Employers are obliged to monitor pregnant working employees among their


workforce and ensure they are provided paid half-day prenatal medical leaves for each month
of the pregnancy period that they are employed.[3]

The national government and local governments will ensure the availability of
reproductive health care services, including family planning and prenatal care.[3]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.
• ADVANTAGES OF THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL

The advantage of Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines is that hopes to provide
midwives for skilled attendance to childbirth and emergency obstetric care, even in
geographically isolated and depressed areas. Thus, the one of the causes of maternal mortality,
that arising from unattended births, will be addressed.

The bill is controversial, as it is being opposed by concerned citizens, especially the pro-
life, pro-family and pro-God groups, regardless of creed or religion. The Roman Catholic Church
expresses its opposition against the bill on many counts, most especially the procurement and
distribution of family planning supplies for the whole country, when the available evidence from
peer reviewed medical journals supports the hypothesis that when ovulation and fertilization
occur in women taking oral contraceptives (OCs) or using intrauterine devices (IUD), post-
fertilization effects are operative on occasion to prevent clinically recognized pregnancy.
Hormonal contraceptives and/or IUDs directly affect the endometrium. These effects have been
presumed to render the endometrium relatively inhospitable to implantation or to the
maintenance of the preembryo or embryo prior to clinically recognized pregnancy.

These make pills and IUD Sabortifacient.Pro-life groups, and many professionals in the
medical and nursing fields, believe that physicians and policy makers should understand and
respect the beliefs of patients who consider human life to be present and valuable from the
moment of fertilization. Patients should be made fully aware of this information so that they can
consent to or refuse the use of artificial contraceptives.

However, the position of the Catholic Church and the pro-life groups does not mean that
they espouse the attitude of "natalism" at all costs, as if the "number" of children, in itself, were
the unmistakable sign of authentic christian matrimonial life.

The sexual act, properly exercised within marriage only, is ordained primarily to the
propagation of life. If there are reasonable motives for spacing births, such as serious medical
conditions in the mother, or extreme poverty, then the Catholic Church teaches that married
couples may take advantage of the natural cycles of the reproductive system and use their
marriage precisely those times that are infertile (natural family planning).

Other aspects of the bill being contested by concerned citizens include the classification
of family planning supplies as essential medicines when their safety/toxicity profile and legal
permissibility are questionable. At the same time, more importance should be given to the
prevalent diseases, the top ten leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines,
namely, infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Financial resources allotted by foreign
donors to assist the Philippine government programs could actually be better spent towards
pursuing health programs targeting communicable diseases than purchasing artificial
contraceptives.

Very pertinent to the debate about reproduction rights is the right to life. The Philippine
Constitution says that the State "shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the
unborn from conception. If artificial contraceptives are medically proven to induce abortion as
one of their mechanisms of action, then procurement and distribution of such family planning
supplies are unconstitutional and illegal.