RH Bill: A matter of choice

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    “Even history has shown that there were indeed differences of positions between the church and the legislature but only to unite again, after some time,” so said Lorenzo ‘Erin” Reyes Tañada III of the Fourth District of Quezon.

    The lawmaker cited the case in the 1950s.  Saying in Pilipino, he said: “Sinabi po ng Simbahang Katoliko na taliwas sa mga pinaniniwalaan nito ang nilalaman po ng Noli Me Tangere at El Filibusterismo ni Dr. Jose Rizal.

    Ipinagbawal nila ang mga aklat na ito mula sa mga silid-aklatan ng mga Katolikong paaralan.

    Subalit, sa pamamagitan ng mga makabayang mambabatas noong panahong iyon, kagaya po ni Senator Jose P. Laurel, Senator Claro M. Recto, at ng aking lolo na si Senador Tañada, nagkaroon ng Rizal Law sa kabila ng pagtutol dito ng Simbahan.”

    Since the Rizal Law was passed, “Kasama na sa kurikulum ng kabataan ang pagbabasa ng mga akda ni Rizal upang maisapuso at maisadiwa ang mga aral ng pagmamahal sa ating Inang Bayan.

    Ngayon ay tanggap na rin ng Simbahan na karapat-dapat ngang matanto ng mga kabataan ang diwa sa likod ng Noli, Fili, at ang buhay ni Rizal,” Tañada said.

    Before dawn last December 13, Tañada was one of the legislators who finally put to a historic vote and passed the RH Bill after fourteen years of being stuck in Congress as it was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, which promotes only natural family planning methods.

    On why he voted for RH Bill, Tañada explained: “I strongly believe that the State must guarantee the freedom and rights of its people. Beyond my advocacy of Freedom of Information, I recognize that this bill is a measure that promotes not only access to information, but the freedom of informed choice among individuals and families.

    Right to know, right to choose – our people deserve no less.”

    “(The RH Bill) is not about religion nor population control. This is pure and simple legislation,” said Iloilo Representative Janette Garin, a proponent of the bill. She said that the measure “responds to the call of our people.”

    According to Senate Bill 2378, the term “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.

    “The Reproductive Health Bill will have profound implications for improving the health and lives of women throughout the country,” said Carlos Conde, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

    “The Aquino administration should be credited for having the political will to muster support for the bill in Congress despite the threat of a political backlash.”

    The United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) says 3.4 million pregnancies occur in the Philippines every year.

    “Half of those pregnancies are unintended while a third are aborted, often in clandestine, unsafe, and unsanitary procedures by nonprofessionals,” wrote Conde in a statement.

    Abortion has been a crime under Philippine law since 1930. The 1987 Philippine Constitution further underlines this when it stated that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

    “The Philippine law on abortion is among the most restrictive in the world, as it contains no express provision for any kind of exemption from criminal liability,” one lawyer commented.  This silence of the law on any exception has a chilling effect to medical practitioners and thus imperils women’s lives.

    For the uninformed, the RH bill does not amend the penal code prohibition on abortion, but addresses post-abortion care standards.

    The UNPFA estimates that there are 11 deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes every day in the Philippines and that “most of them could have been avoided in a well-functioning health care delivery system.”

    It said “maternal health conditions are the leading causes of burden of disease” among Filipino women.

    “The Aquino administration should waste no time in carrying out the reproductive health law once it passes,” Conde urged. “Many Filipino women have faced difficulties and sometimes death because of the absence of a comprehensive and consistent reproductive health policy. This law can change that.”

    For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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