What the RH Bill is not

MANILA, Philippines - The Reproductive Health Bill is not what it purports to be. It is not about reproductive health rights. It is not about women's maternal health. It is not about preventing infant mortality. It is not about responsible parenthood. Nor is it about poverty alleviation.

The RH Bill is in fact a tyranny of half-truths. This Bill, which has gone through so many permutations and attempts to be passed, is a melange of obfuscations and inadequate information.

Efforts to ram it down our throats through apparently tainted media coverage, through surveys that ask leading questions, and through taking advantage of general ignorance of the substance of the bill, not to mention apathy of fence-sitters, is perhaps the reason why it is vaunted that the RH Bill is the best thing that could ever happen to the Filipino family and nation.

Let's start by considering the premise on which this bill rests. An early title of the bill said "Reproductive Health and Population Development Act," which in its present "consolidated form" now has been revised to include "Responsible Parenthood" in the title, hijacking this very proper term to dissimulate and thus appear to indeed be for everyone's good! Its view of development is very narrow, averring that the Philippines is overpopulated, and only by lowering the birth and fertility rates will this country finally burst out of its mire, and alleluia! We become a first world country!

In the first place, the Malthusian (and its other manifestations) population argument has already been shot to pieces, with most of the developed world in fact facing a demographic winter, threatening the prospects of these economies over the long term. Picking up a quotation from an article by former Secretary of Finance Roberto de Ocampo, he said that according to some researches, "in order for a culture to maintain itself for more than 25 years, there must be a fertility rate of 2.11 children per family. With anything less, the culture will decline. Historically, no culture has ever reversed a 1.9 fertility rate." Is this what we want for the Philippines?

Regarding its claim to provide the "right to complete information" particularly about contraceptive options: the advocates completely forget to inform women about the health risks of hormonal contraceptives. The World Health Organization itself has classified these as bringing about the risks of cancer, particularly breast cancer, in their WHO/IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) Report wherein it was found that hormonal contraceptives do cause cancer. At least, let the women know the risks!

It's the same with other contraceptive devices, such as the condom. It has been found that these do not prevent pregnancy from occurring, nor has it been proven that it protects against AIDS. Moreover, failure of contraception eventually leads to abortion, which while it is claimed that the bill has taken note of the fact that abortion is illegal, the effect of failed contraceptions is an implicit support of abortion.

Another obfuscatory provision hidden in the bill are the punitive sanctions that are, if truth be told, attempts to curtail the Filipino's civil liberties: obligatory requirements for medical health practitioners to actively promote artificial birth control without regard for their consciential rights, for example, if they in conscience cannot do it themselves, they are obliged to refer to someone else who don't have the same misgivings. And hey, there are even sanctions for "criticizing" the bill (if passed).

The bill, while pretending to be for the benefit of the Filipino and the family, overreaches itself. Why is it taking over areas best left to the decision of the Filipino married couple, such as whether they want to have children or not, such as their right to educate their children on matters related to sex and morality. The State should govern, and not meddle in the Filipino individual's decision.

A key principle in corporate governance is that the Board should govern, and let Management take care of the micro aspects of business.

Another hidden provision is to consider contraceptives as "essential medicines," which effectively means that there is no need for bidding nor for COA restrictions. As far as I know, no other medicine has been declared "essential"...(and I do have a quarrel with calling contraceptives as "medicine" because pregnancy is not a disease!) This provision thus leads to the use of tax money on what many citizens consider offensive to their beliefs - is this not a devious way of allocating money which have been paid into the government's coffers by a majority of Christian taxpayers?

Let me repeat. The RH bill is not about reproductive health. It is not about giving women a choice. It is not about poverty alleviation. It is not about the Filipino and his family. It is about state control.

merci.suleik@gmail.com

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