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What the RCC hates in the RH Act

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:02am

UPDATE: See the latest copy of the bill here. It’s HB5043.

I think this statement will effectively summarize the state of reproductive health in the Philippines (no matter how irresistibly funny it may sound):

Akala ko kapag unang beses lang ng pagtatalik, hindi mabubuntis (I thought one won’t get pregnant during the first sexual encounter).

Honestly, I have heard this so many times from patients that it already gets frustrating.  Not only does it reflect that a lot of misinformation are spreading around, but it also says how uninformed most of our countrymen can be.  Imagine, I’ve heard this statement from people dwelling in urban areas.  How much more in the  rural areas where sexual and reproductive health education may not be that much improved upon?

It is equally frustrating how the dear old Roman Catholic Church and its bishops and other officials in the country are only contributing to the spread of misinformation by telling the government that the proposed Reproductive Health Act is anti-life and even goes to  threaten those who support the bill that they will not be given Eucharist  and even ex-communicated.  Come on, RCC, last time I checked, the Philippines is not run by the Roman Catholic Church.  Fine, if you don’t want to do it a particular way because it is against your beliefs, then impose it on your flock and not on everybody else.  

But the RCC is making sure that it will win this time.  Last August 16, the Church published an article that responds to the claims of the Reproductive Health Act and the article is called “ Church reply to Reproductive Health bill: facts, fallacies “.  However, reading through it, it made me cringe as I’ve just witnessed how good the writers had been in using words to manipulate.

Let’s not however go the RCC way without knowing all the facts beforehand.  What is exactly being espoused in the Reproductive Health Act proposed by Rep. Edcel Lagman?

There are 10 elements to this Reproductive Health Act:

  • Maternal, infant and child health and nutrition;
  • Family planning information and services;
  • Prevention of abortion and management of post-abortion complications;
  • Adolescent and youth health;
  • Prevention and management of reproductive tract infections (RTIs), HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmittable infections (STIs);
  • Elimination of violence against women;
  • Education and counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health;
  • Treatment of breast and reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions;
  • Male involvement and participation in reproductive health;
  • Prevention and treatment of infertility and sexual dysfunction;

Anti-artificial contraceptives are in fear that the passage of this bill will pave the way into legalizing abortion.  But perhaps, before they march onto the streets rallying “No to RH!”, they should be reading the proposed bill first.

Click on the widget to download the article:

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It is not stated anywhere in the article that it will legalize abortion. In fact, it clearly proscribes abortion, as stated in this paragraph:

This bill continues to proscribe abortion which is a crime under the Revised Penal Code. However, when abortion is resorted to, despite the prohibition, there is a need to manage post-abortion complications in a humane and compassionate manner. The patient should not be suffered to die due to her desperation.

It’s funny that they there’s a notion of legalizing abortion when the only part where abortion is mentioned is in the part where provision of care for post-abortion complications are discussed.  Did they imply that there shouldn’t be health care given to these “sinners” because they have committed a “grave sin”?  This actually brings to mind memories of how some post-abortion patients were treated so badly in hospitals, being reprimanded for what they have done, being so careless with procedures that they’d be in more pain, and so “learn their lesson”.  Haven’t some of these post-abortion patients suffered enough from the reprimands and the threats to be sent to jail because of what they’ve done while they’re already bleeding to death?  No wonder those who aborted their pregnancies (by various means) would rather choose to suffer continuous bleeding rather than go to a hospital to seek medical care where they’ll be humiliated first before being treated.  And why shouldn’t contraceptives be considered as essential medicines?   Contraceptives are already part of the WHO’s model list of essential medicines.

Another provision that the RCC is against is the mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education.  But Lagman clearly stated that education will be made age-appropriate:

Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education in an age-appropriate manner shall be taught by adequately trained teachers starting from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School. Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education shall commence at the start of the school year immediately following one year effectivity of this Act. The Council shall formulate the Sexuality Education curriculum, which shall be common to both public and private schools, based on the following subjects and standards:

  • Reproductive health
  • Reproductive health care and services
  • Attitudes, beliefs and values on sexual development, sexual behavior and sexual health
  • Proscription and hazards of abortion
  • Family planning and the number and spacing of children
  • Natural/traditional methods to prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancy
  • Use of modern contraceptive devices
  • Abstinence before marriage
  • Prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STIs/STDs
  • Safe sex

But Jo Imbong, lawyer and executive secretary of the Legal Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and consultant to CBCP Episcopal Commision on Family and Life reacts violently to such a notion of teaching young people about sex:

Vulnerable and malleable, our children will be taught “adolescent reproductive health” and “the full range of information on family planning methods, services and facilities” for six years. This is child abuse of the highest order. And yet, “every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of his character.” (Child and Youth Welfare Code)

Child abuse, he said.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  While it cannot be blamed that parents may think their 13- and 15-year olds (and even their 30-year old kids) know zilch about sex, the reality is that when children reach puberty, they’re also growing sexually.  And kids will definitely not talk to their parents about their questions on sex, since parents are absolutely horrified to talk to them about it.  So they turn to friends and, of course, friends, being of the same age as they, will also know zilch.  

I certainly agree that children who’re in Grade 5 (who’re mostly aged 10-12) are old enough to understand sexual health education.  Whether prudes would admit to it or not, children have curiosity about sex and hushing them up whenever they come up with questions will not make those questions go away.  Rather, it will only point them to the other direction which could lead to experimentation without correct knowledge (hence the misconception that one will not get pregnant the first time around).   And yes, young adolescents do engage in sex, and sometimes, in worse situations.  And worst, members of the clergy, who claim that children should not have sexual knowledge at such a young age (of 11?), do have sex with minors.   Some even had the audacity to claim that he could not have done it, since he’s a man of the cloth.  Tsk, tsk.  Now that is what should be called child abuse. 

There are still a lot of things to be said, regarding the need for an agressive population control and strict measures to improve reproductive health in the country and with the continuous fight the Catholic church is putting up against it.  

But it shouldn’t really be up to the Catholic Church, whether people should be using NFP or artificial contraception or both.  It should be left to the person’s choice.  It is his life to live anyway.  

Please do read these related articles too:

Perhaps it would be appropriate to tackle more specific issues in future blog posts (and pardon the rather haphazard and mediocre writing.  I’m feeling a bit too emotionally attached to this topic).  

But if you’ve already made up your mind and wanted to support the passage of the bill, please sign the petition here.

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