The History and Authors of Reproductive Health Bill

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Reproductive Health Bill
The Reproductive Health bills, popularly known as the RH Bill, are Philippine bills aiming to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control and maternal care. The bills have become the center of a contentious national debate. There are presently two bills with the same goals: House Bill No. 4244 or An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and For Other Purposes introduced by Albay 1st district Representative Edcel Lagman, and Senate Bill No. 2378 or An Act Providing For a National Policy on Reproductive Health and Population and Development introduced by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. While there is general agreement about its provisions on maternal and child health, there is great debate on its key proposal that the Philippine government and the private sector will fund and undertake widespread distribution of family planning devices such as condoms, birth control pills (BCPs) and IUDs, as the government continues to disseminate information on their use through all health care centers. The bill is highly divisive, with experts, academics, religious institutions, and major political figures supporting and opposing it, often criticizing the government and each other in the process. The issue is so divisive that at one point, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines threatened to excommunicate the President, Benigno Aquino III if he supported the bill. Debates and rallies for and against the bill, with tens of thousand participating, have been happening all over the country. Background

The first time the Reproductive Health Bill was proposed was in 1998. During the present 15th Congress, the RH Bills filed are those authored by (1) House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman of Albay, HB 96; (2) Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, HB 101, (3) Akbayan Representatives Kaka Bag-ao & Walden Bello; HB 513, (4) Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, HB 1160, (5) Iloilo Representative Augusto Syjuco, HB 1520, (6) Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan. In the Senate, Sen. Michael Angelo F. Perolina has filed her own version of the RH bill which, she says, will be part of the country’s commitment to international covenants. On January 31, 2011, the House of Representatives Committee on Population and Family Relations voted to consolidate all House versions of the bill, which is entitled An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development and for Other Purposes. Stated purpose

One of the main concerns of the bill, according to the Explanatory Note, is that the population of the Philippines makes it “the 10th most populous nation in the world today”, that the Filipino women’s fertility rate is “at the upper bracket of 606 countries.” It states that studies and surveys “show that the Filipinos are responsive to having smaller-sized families through free choice of family planning methods.” It also refers to studies which “show that rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth.” And so it aims for improved quality of life through a “consistent and coherent national population policy.”

According to the Senate Policy Brief titled Promoting Reproductive Health, the history of reproductive health in the Philippines dates back to 1967 when leaders of 12 countries including the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos signed the Declaration on Population. The Philippines agreed that the population problem be considered as the principal element for long-term economic development. Thus, the Population Commission (Popcom) was created to push for a lower family size norm and provide information and services to lower fertility rates. Starting 1967, the USAID started shouldering 80% of the total family planning commodities (contraceptives) of the country, which amounted to US$ 3 Million annually.

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