By ELENA MASILUNGAN, Newsbreak’s Maggie De Pano Fellow. Originally published on Newsbreak.
MANILA, Philippines – If critics are to be believed, the reproductive health bill promotes abortion. But does it really?
The Guiding Principles of the bills currently pending in both chambers of Congress both state they are not meant to amend the law which criminalizes abortion. House Bill 4244, in its Guiding Principles, states that, “this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law”. (Download HB 4244)
The Senate version, Senate Bill 2378, says “it does not amend the penal law on abortion.” (Download SB 2378)
The House bill defines “reproductive health care” to include “proscription(meaning, prohibition) of abortion and management of abortion complications.”
On the other hand, the Senate bill includes “prevention of abortion and management of abortion complications” as one of the elements of reproductive health care.
Both bills mandate an “age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” that must cover “proscription and hazards of abortion.”
What the bill does is to ensure that women who are suffering from post-abortion related complications would have access to care.
House Bill 4244, in its Guiding Principles, state that, “While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, 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.”
Similarly, Senate Bill 2378 asserts in its Guiding Principles that while “it does not amend the penal law on abortion, it ensures that women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and not left to die.”
In her explanatory note, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, author of Senate Bill 2378, said that “The state’s legal enforcement of the abortion prohibition must not inhibit women’s right to access this life-saving medical procedure.”
She adds: “Withholding or limiting post-abortion care is not acceptable, let alone humane approach to the reduction of the number of abortions, which is more aptly addressed through preventive education and information programs, including knowledge of safe and available options to prevent pregnancy and the risks of abortion.”
The House bill also provides that to address “maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations,” “(T)emporary facilities such as evacuation centers and refugee camps shall be equipped to respond to the special needs in the following situations: normal and complicated deliveries, pregnancy complications, miscarriage and post-abortion complications, spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs, and sexual and gender-based violence.”
The House bill, officially called “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development,” is due for interpellation when Congress resumes in May.
In the Senate, Santiago is set to give a sponsorship speech on the Reproductive Health Act also in May. – Newsbreak
The series was produced under the Maggie de Pano Fund for Investigative Reporting on Health. The Fund, which is managed by Newsbreak, is made possible through a grant from Macare Medicals, Inc.
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