Legal Notes of Rep. Kaka J. Bag-ao
November 23, 2010
Issue #6, Volume 1, Series of 2010
North-wing 616, House of Representatives
Phone – 9316026 or 9315001 loc 7435 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org |Contact Annie Bag-ao (+639088849546)
Reproductive Health Bill: A Pro-Life Bill
One of the constant tirades hurled against the Reproductive Health Bill (RHB) by Anti-RH groups is that the bill is not a pro-life legislation.
This criticism is absolutely baseless as a close scrutiny of the provisions of the RH bill will show that it is actually a pro-life legislation.
Despite the clear import of the RH bill, its critics are determined to obstruct its passage in the House of Representatives. Their arguments range from the allegation that the bill is an anti-life bill and referred to themselves as a pro-life group, as opposed to the proponents of the bill which they labeled as anti-life.
By branding the differing groups as pro-life or anti-life without first examining or even reading the proposed Reproductive Health Bill, the critics of the RH bill blindly leads the public to false information and worse, cause them harm more than good. Before allowing our theological ideologies and personal biases cloud our judgment, we should first give the RH bill a level-headed assessment based on what is actually contained in the proposed law. Only then can we properly judge whether the RH bill is a pro-life or an anti-life legislation.
Constitutional basis of the RH Bill
The RH bill is not only a response to the growing concern over the fast rising rate of maternal deaths and reproductive system-related diseases. Rather, it is primordially an implementation of the State’s duty under Section 15, Article II of the Philippine Constitution to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them. Also, worth mentioning is Section 11 of Article XIII which highlights the State’s duty to adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost. In other words, the legislation of the RH bill to a law is in keeping with social justice and respect for human rights.
What the RH Bill is
The proposed Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2010 is a pro-life legislation. It is intended to reduce maternal mortality, prevent reproductive system-related diseases (such as breast and cervical cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men), and curb the rising cases of abortion. To be specific, the bill aims to ensure that each province and city establish and operate hospitals with adequate and qualified personnel to provide obstetric care. The bill requires LGUs, national and local government hospitals, and other public health units to conduct maternal death review to monitor and mitigate the worsening maternal death crisis.
The proposed law is a human rights legislation. It is based on the State policy that recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons including the right to equality and equity, the right to sustainable human development, the right to health, the right to education and information, and the right to choose and make informed decisions. It will enable the State in assisting couples, parents and individuals to achieve their desired family size within the framework of responsible parenthood.
The proposed law is a gender responsive legislation. It is premised on the State’s recognition and guarantee of promotion of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment. It advances the promotion and protection of the human rights of women, and the welfare and rights of children.
The proposed law is an anti-discrimination legislation. It seeks to eradicate discriminatory practices, laws, and policies that infringe on a person’s exercise of sexual and reproductive health rights. With specific reference to the rights of employees, the bill mandates the respect of health rights of all workers and safeguards the right of women against discrimination in the matter of hiring, regularizing of employment status or selection for retrenchment.
The proposed law is a service-delivery legislation. It ensures universal access to the delivery of a wide range of products and services on reproductive health. It declares family planning supplies as essential medicines that shall be included in the regular purchase of all national and local hospitals and health units. It likewise provides for the establishment of a Mobile Health Care Service (MHCS) in each Congressional District to deliver health care goods and services to its constituents, more particularly to the poor and needy, as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health. Finally, the bill seeks to encourage private practitioners to render reproductive health services free of charge or at a reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low income patients.
There are three major elements in the proposed law:
- First, the law establishes a national policy framework on reproductive health. This will establish a uniform policy that should be followed by all national and local government offices and agencies, that will ensure equal access to health services to all Filipinos regardless of economic status, religious beliefs, and sexuality.
- Second, the law establishes a national program on reproductive health. This will mobilize all available government resources to pursue the delivery of health services throughout the countries, focused primarily on the poor segments of the populace.
- Third, the law provides individuals and couples choice from among the wide range of available natural and artificial methods of family planning. Filipinos will be given access to services and products of their choice, and to education, that will help them make an informed choice.
What the RH bill is not
The proposed law does not promote abortion. On the contrary, the bill categorically declares that reproductive health care includes the prevention of abortion and the management of abortion complications. The bill likewise includes among the relevant subjects of the mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education, the topic on proscription and hazards of abortion.
The proposed law is not just about contraceptives. While the bill regards contraceptives as essential medicines, it likewise takes an integrated and holistic approach to reproductive health and includes a comprehensive package of services such as hospital-based family planning. Among others, the bill covers the provision of additional Philhealth benefits, mobile health care service, and age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education. The bill likewise provides for the capability building of barangay healthworkers and other community-based health workers, and gives them additional monetary benefits.
Before we resort to undue name-calling which only tends to confuse the public rather than inform, there is a need to amplify the fact that, as explained above, the RH bill is not an anti-life bill, but is in fact clearly pro-life.
*** A lawyer by profession, AKBAYAN Rep. Kaka Bag-ao was the Convenor of the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), a network of NGOs providing legal support to marginalized communities. She was the legal counsel of the Sumilao farmers.