Filipinos and the Reproductive Health Bill

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Jamila Colleen M. Briones
Prof. Anna Melinda De Ocampo
ENGLISH 10 class WFV1
9 September 2011
Filipinos and the Reproductive Health Bill
The Reproductive Health Bill – more commonly known as the RH Bill – is one of the most controversial bills that are being discussed today. It was only recently, however, that much attention had been directed towards it.

The implementation of laws provisioning almost the same contents as the RH Bill today dates back in the late 1960’s during the reign of former President Ferdinand Marcos. At that time, Family Planning was adopted by the government purely for the purpose of population reduction towards the alleviation of poverty, as is the government’s commitment to population control stated in The 1973 Constitution, “It shall be the responsibility of the state to achieve and maintain population levels conducive to the national welfare” (Likhaan and ARROW 17). Unfortunately, when the Marcos administration was replaced by the Aquino administration, the ground for the government Family Planning Program became shaky. It was attempted to be abolished twice but was saved through its transfer from the Department of Social Welfare to the Department of Health in 1988 due to both local and international pressures (17).

During the Ramos administration, the Philippine approach towards population control shifted from the previous population control framework to the reproductive health approach (Likhaan and ARROW 17). This was a result of the Philippine participation to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo, Egypt (17). It was also under this regime that Secretary of Health, Dr. Juan Flavier funded the purchase of contraceptives and launched an anti-AIDS campaign heavily featuring condoms despite fervent opposition from the rulers of the Catholic Church (17). A legacy that perhaps he passed on to his successor Dr. Carmencita Reodica who was the brain behind the implementation of an Integrated Reproductive Health Program within the DOH (17).

As another change in administration took place however, the reproductive health programs stated above were abolished and while the new regime have tried to present newer programs for the improvement of Philippine reproductive health, none were implemented due to the ousting of Estrada which then brought us the Macapagal-Arroyo administration (Likhaan and ARROW 17-18). It is said that it was in this administration that government reproductive health programs previously implemented by former administrations “regressed” (18). Two big events happened during this time. First was the banning of the emergency contraceptive pill called Postinor which raised a torrent of rallies and protests from health and women’s NGOs and the second was Arroyo’s announcement that she would veto the proposed Reproductive Health Bill at that time even if it were passed because she believes that it is “a pro-abortion bill”(18).

The struggle for the passage of the RH Bill, however, did not stop there. As the current regime led by Pres. Benigno Aquino, Jr. took over, the fire brought by this controversial debate has been lit once more. The bill has undergone a few revisions and the anti-RH and pro-RH factions have continued their unceasing debate. The anti-RH faction, supported by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), other so-called Pro-Life Organizations, and some famous personalities like Manny Pacquiao, argue that the bill is anti-Life, anti-Poor, unconstitutional and anti-God. The pro-RH faction – supported by Health and Women NGOs, International Organizations, and also various personalities like Lea Salonga and Sen. Mirriam Santiago – on the other hand, believes that the RH Bill is pro-Life, pro-Poor, pro-Choice, constitutional and NOT anti-God.

On my part, I stand by the pro-RH faction. The Reproductive Health Bill is an important step towards the improvement of the quality of life of every Filipino, and I...
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