By Ma. Olivia H. Tripon
The saga of the RH Bill from 1999 to 2012 which took more than a decade to pass into law is replete with drama, shock and awe as the news showed fetuses and even newborns dead or alive, found in toilets, garbage dumps; even a mother cutting herself up and removing the baby from her stomach!
It was a war between “good” and “evil” waged from the pulpits, inside the church as giant tarpaulins urging the faithful to “choose life, reject the RH Bill” unfurled beside the altar or at the church gates while proponents, even PNoy were threatened with excommunication and withholding of Holy Communion. Protests reached exclusive Ayala Alabang village and even a dance-off at street rallies near the Supreme Court. The battle waged not only in newspapers and broadcast, but even more vicious online. Overzealous holier-than-thou anti-RH were unfriended on Facebook. The church continued its crusade against pro-RH candidates during elections with its list of Team Patay and Team Buhay.
Jose Sebastian Manguiat, M.D. analyzed the family planning provisions of the consolidated version of House Bill 4244 according to ethical principles, situating the national debate within the ICPD and MDG framework in his paper, “From the International Conference on Population and Development to the Millennium Development Goals: An Ethical Reflection on the Philippines’ Family Planning Policy” published in the Asian Bioethics Review, vol. 5 no.1, 2013.
Manguiat concluded: “Using the principles of informed free choice, beneficence and justice on the family planning provisions, House Bill No. 4244 is ethically consistent with the principles emphasised in the ICPD Programme of Action and the MDGs. Although potential ethical problems are identified, these are foreseen to occur at the implementation process once the bill is enacted into law, and are thus insufficient to deter the approval of the bill itself.” (Abstract and full text may be accessed at the Archives section of the Asian Bioethics Review website at www.asianbioethicsreview.com)
RH has been exhaustively discussed. The authors and sponsors of the RH bill had listened to the objections of the anti-RH and revised some of the provisions. The RH Law does not force anyone to use contraceptives nor does it force health practitioners to distribute them or give services that are against their conscience.
Our constitution recognizes the equal right to life of the unborn and the mother, including the right to freely practice religion as well as the right to health and information. So does the RH law. Let the law (RA10354) speak for itself. (I have chosen the sections in answer to continuing objections for those who have not yet read the law. Underscoring mine.)
Republic Act 10354 “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012”*
Section 2: Declaration of Policy
The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies which do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and relevant information and education thereon according to the priority needs of women, children and other underprivileged sectors, giving preferential access to those identified through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) and other government measures of identifying marginalization, who shall be voluntary beneficiaries of reproductive health care, services and supplies for free.
Sec 3: Guiding principles
(c) Since human resource is among the principal assets of the country, effective and quality reproductive health care services must be given primacy to ensure maternal and child health, the health of the unborn, safe delivery and birth of healthy children, and sound replacement rate, in line with the State’s duty to promote the right to health, responsible parenthood, social justice and full human development;
d) The provision of ethical and medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable, non-abortifacient, effective and quality reproductive health care services and supplies is essential in the promotion of people’s right to health, especially those of women, the poor, and the marginalized, and shall be incorporated as a component of basic health care;
(j) While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortive complications and all other complications arising from pregnancy, labor and delivery and related issues shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner in accordance with law and medical ethics;
Another objection was on sex education, from some parents worried about the content to outright fear of promiscuity or others who insist on giving sex education to their own children.
SEC. 14.Age- and Development-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. – The State shall provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents which shall be taught by adequately trained teachers informal and nonformal educational system and integrated in relevant subjects such as, but not limited to, values formation; knowledge and skills in self-protection against discrimination; sexual abuse and violence against women and children and other forms of gender based violence and teen pregnancy; physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; women’s rights and children’s rights; responsible teenage behavior; gender and development; and responsible parenthood: Provided, That flexibility in the formulation and adoption of appropriate course content, scope and methodology in each educational level or group shall be allowed onlyafter consultations with parents-teachers-community associations, school officials and other interest groups. The Department of Education (DepED) shall formulate a curriculum which shall be used by public schools and may be adopted by private schools.
In his column “Sounding Board”, (10/13/2008) Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ said, “The RH Law will require people of good faith to act or not to act contrary to what they believe. Concessions must be made so that religious liberty will not be violated. The law must allow for the conscientious objector.” Apparently this has been addressed in the RH law:
SEC. 23.Prohibited Acts. – The following acts are prohibited:
(a) Any health care service provider, whether public or private, who shall:
(3) Refuse to extend quality health care services and information on account of the person’s marital status, gender, age, religious convictions, personal circumstances, or nature of work: Provided, That the conscientious objection of a health care service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another health care service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible: Provided, further, That the person is not in an emergency condition or serious case as defined in Republic Act No. 8344, which penalizes the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency and serious cases;
The RH Bill is now a law. However, its constitutionality is being questioned. Let us read and understand the law. It is for the benefit of our health and family. Exercise your rights and obligations under the law. Let us also respect the rights of others to access health information and services to plan their family and practice their religion according to their conscience. The law is for everyone – Catholics and non-Catholics.
*Complete text of the law may be accessed at www.pcw.gov.ph
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