DESPITE proposed amendments, the Church remains opposed to the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

“In the first place, we do not favor the decision to come into amendments because we go back into our original stand that we do not accept the bill at all. We want the bill to be junked,” Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), told the Varsitarian in a phone interview.

Last Sept. 12, it was reported that Sen. Pia Cayetano, principal author of the bill, had suggested the insertion of a subsection stating that “abortion is a criminal act in accordance with existing laws” replacing the text “while this Act does not amend the penal law on abortion, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, nonjudgmental and compassionate manner.”

Cayetano was quoted in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sept. 17 that the amendments were made “to put the issue to rest and allay fears that the RH bill will promote abortion.” She also moved to delete the provision stating certain family planning supplies and drugs would be included in the list of essential medicines.

The Senate and the House of the Representatives are already in the period of amendments on the RH bill.

Palma said the Church won’t negotiate with lawmakers because it disapproves of the whole bill, and not just some of its parts.

“We are not involved with amendments. We are not into dialogue because we might be giving the impression that we can change. We are not changing [our stand]. We are not in the position to change the official Church teachings,” Palma said.

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Palma pointed out that there is no reason to pass the bill as most of its provisions are already in the Magna Carta of Women.

‘Copy-paste bill’

Dr. Eleanor de Borja-Palabyab, an obstetrician-gynecologist and president of Doctors for Life, agreed that the bill is a “redundancy.”

“The heart of the bill is promotion of contraceptives. Artificial contraceptives are abortifacient like IUD (intrauterine device) and pills,” Palabyab said in a phone interview. “It is really a deceptive bill. Not Filipino at all. [It is a] copy-paste bill.”

The 14th Congress passed Republic Act No. 9710, known as Magna Carta of Women, on July 28, 2008 to protect women’s rights and interests in society. Section 17, under Chapter IV for rights and empowerment, guarantees women’s right to comprehensive health services addressing “major causes of women’s mortality and morbidity” with respect to religious convictions.

The law also mandates comprehensive health information and education, and acknowledges the natural right and duty of parents in molding their children’s dignity in sexual formation and their right to “ethical, legal, safe, and effective family planning methods, including fertility awareness.”

The law also guarantees maternal care with pre- and post-natal services, management of pregnancy-related complications, and prevention of abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Cayetano, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) last Sept. 18, argued that “reproductive health provisions of the Magna Carta of Women are very general in scope.”

However, lawyer Jeremy Gatdula, an expert on international economic law and public international law, said if Cayetano was referring to measures other than contraception which is found in RH bill, her statement wasn’t clear.

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“If the Magna Carta for Women is broad then it means that the government will now have the leeway to be able to make any regulation or rule or a measure that they believe will enable them to carry out the provisions of Magna Carta for Women,” Gatdula said in a phone interview with the Varsitarian.

Gatdula noted that the Magna Carta for Women is about provisions on women’s health and maternal health that do not necessarily involve contraception.

“In the end, the reason why we are objecting the RH bill is that it seeks to impose on us the use of contraceptives,” he said.

According to Palabyab, contraceptives are risky and could harm a woman’s reproductive system.

“Contraception is not the solution to the alleged increasing MMR (maternal mortality rate). The data of 221 [maternal deaths] per 100,000 [live births] is questionable source. We need to know the reasons for the mortality and take it from there,” Palabyab said.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) had reported in its official website that there were 1,721 maternal deaths in 2006 or a maternal mortality rate of 103.5 per 100,000 live births, a slight decrease of 0.6 percent from 2005.

Palabyab said the RH bill is unnecessary and the government should focus on the improvement of health care services under the existing maternal health framework.

“It is nothing but a depopulation scheme and a promotion and sales of artificial contraceptives,” Palabyab said, noting that the Department of Health (DOH) is allotting 13.7 billion pesos for the RH bill, while the budget for scholarships has decreased from 1.3 billion pesos to 900 million pesos.

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Against growth of economy and natural law

Gatdula said the bill is a duplication of budget allocations and thus, a waste of government resources and an encouragement of corruption.

“However, even without the contraception component of the RH bill, what will be left would simply be a duplication of the measures that are already found in other laws,” he said.

Gatdula said contraception is against the purpose of human beings and their natural inclination toward life.

“Contraception, in whatever form, will always be a violation of natural law,” said Gatdula, who is a natural law advocate.

Gatdula said contraception allows people to be indulgent and treat others merely as a tool of pleasure, without taking responsibilities. Having the “contraceptive mentality,” he added, would make society “more permissive,” and lead to the breaking down of social norms and increasing rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion.

Gatdula also said the RH bill will harm the economy.

“The basic unit of the economy will always be the individual and the very caring of an individual will always be left to the family. If you attack the family, the individual will suffer and the economy of the country will also suffer,” Gatdula said.

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