The Debated RH Bill
Riitta Vartti 14.3.2012 suomeksi
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Mielenosoitus perhesuunnittelulain puolesta"The RH bill is not just about choice. It's about a chance. Chance para sa ipinanganak na mahirap. Chance na makapag-aral nang tuloy-tuloy. Mapakain nang tama ang mga bata. Magkaroon ng pangarap, at di lang mga panaginip. Chance na makaahon. At yun lang naman ang hinihingi natin. Chance sa buhay."

Risa Hontiveros videolla:

The Reproductive Health bills, popularly known as the RH Bill, aim to guarantee universal access to methods and information on birth control and maternal care. The first time the Reproductive Health Bill was proposed was in 1998, already more than 10 years ago, and after that several new versions have been proposed. Currently in spring 2012, is debated the consolidated version voted by the House of Representatives Committee on Population and Family Relations one year ago, on 31 January 2011. This Bill is entitled An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development and for Other Purposes.

There is general agreement about those parts of the Bill that aim to improve maternal and child health. Instead, 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. At the moment, as we know, the government continues to disseminate information on their use through all health care centers. The bill has divided the people, with experts, academics, religious institutions, and major political figures supporting and opposing it, and debates and rallies for and against the bill, with tens of thousands participating, have been happening all over the country.

What new things the Law would give?

  • The new Law would allow the government to "promote, without bias, all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal."
  • Although abortion is still recognized as illegal and punishable by law, the bill states that "the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner."
  • The bill calls for a "multi-dimensional approach" integrates a component of family planning and responsible parenthood into all government anti-poverty programs.
  • Under the bill, age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education is required from grade five to fourth year high school using "life-skills and other approaches."
  • The bill also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment to guarantee the reproductive health rights of its female employees. Companies with less than 200 workers are required to enter into partnership with health care providers in their area for the delivery of reproductive health services.
  • Employers are obliged to monitor pregnant working employees among their workforce and ensure they are provided paid half-day prenatal medical leaves for each month of the pregnancy period that they are employed.
  • The national government and local governments will ensure the availability of reproductive health care services, including family planning and prenatal care.
  • Any person or public official who prohibits or restricts the delivery of legal and medically safe reproductive health care services will be meted penalty by imprisonment or a fine.

Supporting and opposing the Bill

Proponents argue:
(1) Economic studies, especially the experience in Asia, show that rapid population growth and high fertility rates, especially among the poor, exacerbate poverty and make it harder for the government to address it.
(2) Empirical studies show that poverty incidence is higher among big families. Smaller families and wider birth intervals could allow families to invest more in each child?s education, health, nutrition and eventually reduce poverty and hunger at the household level.
(3) Ten to eleven maternal deaths daily could be reduced if they had access to basic healthcare and essential minerals like iron and calcium, according to the DOH (Department of Health).
(4) Studies show that 44% of the pregnancies in the poorest quintile (1/5) are unanticipated, and among the poorest women who would like to avoid pregnancy, at least 41% do not use any contraceptive method because of lack of information or access. And "Among the poorest families, 22% of married women of reproductive age express a desire to avoid pregnancies but are still not using any family planning method."
(5) Use of contraception, which the World Health Organization has listed as essential medicines, will lower the rate of abortions as it has done in other parts of the world, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
(6) An SWS survey of 2008 showed that 71% of the respondents are in favor of the bill.
(7) At the heart of the bill is the free choice given to people on the use of reproductive health, enabling the people, especially the poor to have the number of children they want and can care for.

t-paita lain puolustajien keinonaOpponents of the bill argue that:
(1) "There is little cross-country evidence that population growth impedes or promotes economic growth".
(2) The bill takes away limited government funds from treating many high priority medical and food needs and transfers them to fund objectively harmful and deadly devices. The ordinary birth control pill and the IUD are abortifacient to fertilized eggs.
(3) The contraceptives have deleterious social effects (abortion, premarital sex, female impoverishment, fatherless children, teenage pregnancies, and poverty). More condoms promote the spread of AIDS. Combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (the most common type prescribed globally) are carcinogenic and confer other serious health risks. The increased usage of contraceptives, which implies that some babies are unwanted, will eventually lead to more abortion.
(4) The Philippines is not a welfare state: taxpayer's money should not be used for personal practices that are harmful and immoral.
(5) Hundreds of thousands have rallied against the bill all over the country, while the pro-RH bill rallies only had a few thousands and there is evidence that attendees were paid.
(6) The penal provisions constitute a violation of free choice and conscience, and establish religious persecution.

Well-known proponents of the Law

Sylvia "Guy" Estrada Claudio

Sylvia Guy Estrada ClaudioSylvia Estrada Claudio or Guy (born in 1957) became an NGO activist already in the1980s, when she along other students campaigned against the then dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In 1982, as a student of medicine and psychology she founded the Medical Action Group ( to treat psychological trauma and injuries of the victims of dictatorship. Another organization she founded was Likhaan ( that helped the poor grassroot women in slums also in the area of reproductive health. Both organizations continue working.

Thus, for tens of years, Guy Estrada Claudio has been dealing with matters that the RH Bill concerns. As a resource person she has also participated in the international discussion and conferences and published several articles and books on the issue. Currently she works as a professor in Department of Women and Development Studies, College of Social Work and Community Development in the University of the Philippines. Married, 3 children.

Some of her most famous publications:

Rape, Love and Sexuality: The Construction of Woman in Discourse. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, Press: 2002

Estrada-Claudio, S. (2010). Sanctifying Moral Tyranny: Religious Fundamentalisms and the Political Disempowerment of Women. In Religious Fundamentalisms and Their Gendered Impacts in Asia. Claudia Derichs and Andrea Fleschenberg (eds.) Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert, Stiftung.

Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros-Baraquel

Ann Theresia

Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel or more shortly Risa Hontiveros (born in 1966) is a well-known activist, journalist and politician in the Philippines. She was member of the Philippines' House of Representatives from Akbayan party-list from 30.6.2004 to 30.6.2010. Risa Hontiveros also ran for the Senate in the 2010 election, but was narrowly defeated (by the side is one of her posters from that time).

Before venturing into politics she served as a journalist for ten years in TV. She is a recipient of the Kapisanan ng Mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas' Golden Dove Award for Best Female Newscaster.

Risa Hontiveros graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences in 1987 from the Ateneo de Manila University, and she also completed a Diploma Course in Managing Arts Program at the Asian Institute of Management. For more than 20 years she used to work as Secretary General for the Coalition for Peace and was member of the Government Panel for Peace Talks with the National Democratic Front. At Ateneo de Manila University, she has lectured in peace studies and taught broadcast media and visual thinking.

By now, Risa Hontiveros is the national spokesperson of Akbayan Party. Additionally she is in leading position in several organizations, among them Amnesty International - Pilipinas.

The new Reproductive Health Law has been on her agenda for years. According to her, the approval of the RH Bill would mean a marked reduction in abortion cases, fewer deaths of women caused by complications related to pregnancy, and improved health services.

She has got 4 children.

Read more on her Facebook site

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