Philippine society remains divided on the reproductive health (RH) bill, as it is being opposed by concerned citizens, especially the pro-life, pro-family and pro-God groups, regardless of creed or religion. 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.
Other aspects of the bill being contested by concerned citizens include the classification of family planning supplies as essential medicines when their safety profile and legal permissibility are questionable. 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. Harapan”, a debate sought to clarify issues about the bill now pending in Congress, amid vitriol spilled by both sides on social media, the pulpit, on the streets, and elsewhere, aired by ABS-CBN and ANC on Sunday night.
Key proponents of movements either supporting or rejecting the RH bill took part in the discussion, which was hosted by Julius Babao and Karen Davila. House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, one of the proponents of the measure now called Responsible Parenthood-Reproductive Health Bill, cited United Nations data showing that 11 women in the country die every day due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.
He also mentioned surveys made by Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia showing that a majority of Filipinos support the RH bill. “Ang RH bill ay hindi tungkol sa religion. Ito ay tungkol sa karapatan, kalusugan, at kaunlaran,” he said. Lagman added that it is not only about contraceptives but also maternal health, abortion prevention, HIV-AIDS management prevention, and efforts to stamp out violence against women. Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez, who is opposing the bill, took the opposite road and said he and the other guests would not be present at the debate if their mothers followed family planning.
He also claimed that contraceptives raise breast cancer rates and do not prevent HIV infections, citing Thailand. Golez also said the Philippines’ population growth rate is going down. “Di na kailangan ng RH para bumaba. ” The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Fr. Melvin Castro said that tubal ligation, a popular medical method involving the cutting women’s Fallopian tubes to prevent them from becoming pregnant again, is considered as a sin by the church.
Pro-life activist George Balagtas and Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, director of the University of the Philippines’ center for women’s studies also presented their arguments either rejecting or supporting the RH bill. Claudio focused her attention on the Catholic Church’s influence on the debate and said that Catholic leaders in the country should respect diversity of religion and opinion. “I’m not a Catholic. Hindi totoo na lahat ng Pilipino ay Katoliko.
That is not society,” she added. Castro, meanwhile, insisted that the RH bill is against God’s laws. “We are opposing God’s will to procreate. ” Other personalities from the 2 sides of the fence also crossed swords over sensitive issues such as sex education and abortion. UST’s Dr. Aguirre, meanwhile, used another angle in attacking the RH bill. She said sex education has been around for years and cited a study stating that 9 of 10 Filipino youths are not sexually active.
Akbayan’s Risa Hontiveros, on the other hand, believes that sex education must begin in the fifth grade, when changes occur in the bodies of boys and girls. Even the results of the SMS and online polls held during the show failed to end arguments on key issues. In the SMS poll, 69. 58% of votes cast reject the RH bill while 30. 42% support it, while in the separate online poll held on the Harapan micro site that live streamed the debate, 63. 91% support the RH bill while 36. 09% oppose it.