YEARS after fading into the background, abortion issue is out again, thanks to House Bill 4110 or the proposed Reproductive Health Care Act.

The bill, which seeks to benefit women and “girl-children” and is authored by Reps. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, Krisel Lagman-Luistro, and Loreta Ann Castillo, aims to slacken if not totally remove “barriers to reproductive health”.

However, all that the bill has sought and found so far are the raised brows of the pro-life camp, who sees the bill as possibly granting women unlimited access to abortion and/or abortifacient drugs.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin have mounted a crusade to the “anti-life forces.” Sin said that the bill is anti-life because it mandates a more aggressive push for the widespread availability of contraceptives and most of these are abortifacients; anti-woman because it degrades the woman and turns her into a victim; anti-child because it allows minor girls as young as 13 years old to exercise their so-called reproductive rights; anti-social because it destroys society by destroying the morality of women; anti-family because parents kill their own children; and anti-God because abortion and murder is against the laws of God.

University firmly supports the stand of the Church although it has yet to release its official position regarding the bill.

In an interview with the Varsitarian, Fr. Rector Tamerlane Lana said that although there is no direct mention of legalization of abortion, the bill provides that laws, including those against abortion, infringe on the right of women to reproductive health care.

“According to the authors of this bill, reproductive self-determination is founded on the principle of autonomy, which would mean that a woman has the right to make a choice as to what kind of contraceptives to use and also to terminate her pregnancy,” he said.

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Last year, the University formed a committee composed of members of the UST academe to identify various social issuesand fashion relevant UST responses to them. The University Committee on Social Concerns and Advocacy has among its agenda the issue on HB 4110 and national poverty.

In a meeting convened by the Rector last October 4, the committee took note that the bill has been losing support from congressmen, who have gradually withdrawn their co-sponsorship of the bill. But the committee will still map out the opposition in order to make sure the bill does not pass and to reinforce the pro-life position.

The committee agreed that UST should take a “constructive approach” to the campaign, taking into consideration the maternal health concerns that the authors and supporters of the bill say necessitate the legalization of abortion. To address the concerns, UST will provide an interdisciplinary approach, making use of UST’s strong reputation in the health and medical sciences to present practical and moral solutions. Moreover, it agreed that laymen should take the lead in the campaign.

One of its members, Dr. Ernesto Gonzales Ph. D, Social Research Center director and Faculty of Arts and Letters Economics professor, opposes the legalization of the bill.

“What I have observed in the way that they have formulated the bill is that a non-technical mind will not be able to identify the bottom line issue, which is the right of the child to live,” he said.

Provisions

The bill pushes for “a comprehensive reproductive health care system, gender equality, the establishment of an integrated national policy and program on reproductive health that recognizes women’s reproductive right to decide freely on the number, spacing, and timing of their children by having the means to do so,” and “ensures universal access to reproductive health services, information, and education.”

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It calls for “comprehensive, age-specific” programs of information on reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, gender roles, and responsible use of variety of contraceptives. It seeks to allow teenagers to have reproductive health care and sex education. It also weeks to help prevent or reduce teenage pregnancies through counseling and supplying contraceptives.

The bill states that without regular access to safe, high quality services, women, and girl-children become vulnerable to a host of health complications, which may include death or injury during childbirth, sepsis, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmissible infections. It says it seeks “to improve the health and well being of Filipinos by upholding their reproductive rights and their right to reproductive self-determination.”

HB 4110 says it finds its basis in the Constitution. But the constitution is clearly against abortion in declaring protection to life “from conception.”

Confusion

Fr. Jerry Manlangit, O.P, regent of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, said that the language of the bill is very vague and deceitful.

“They are using double-speak and ambivalent terms. If certain provisions implied in the bill are overlooked, it may pave the way to the legalization of abortion,” he said.

Theology professor Jaime Nuevo of the College of Commerce agreed. He cited the removal of all legal and regulatory barriers to reproductive health care.

Nuevo said that despite positive provisions in HB 4110 such as the recognition of women’s rights, gender equality, and access to health services and information without discrimination, the bill has its own downside.

“It’s like telling the young people that they would fall into a mistake anyway, so why not use the available pills and contraceptives, which may be available over the counter. It would make the pill and technology decide for you. It would take away a person’s decision-making,” he said.

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“Children would now be given the right to practice contraception and abortion.” Fr. Manlangit said “it would also institutionalize non-parental and amoral child sex while abandoning morality in the upbringing of the youth.

Fr. Manlangit added that passage of the bill would lead to desecration of man, degradation of motherhood, defiance of parental rights, violation of children’s rights, and legalization of divorce.

Nuevo challenged the Church to offer alternatives.

“Sasabihin nila na masama iyan, but what are the options of the Church? The Church should also have the responsibility to look after the welfare of the people,” he said.

However, Fr. Manlangit said that natural family planning methods remain the effective alternative option of the Church. “Most couples are ignorant about it, it is 99% effective compared to artificial birth control methods and abortifacients. Artificial birth control methods are rejected by the Church because they are against the nature and purpose of sex and love.

“The government has the moral responsibility to inform the people regarding the pros and cons and not to mislead them. It’s not the question of the choice of the mother, but the right of the child,” Gonzales added.

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