10 Things You Should Know About the Reproductive Health Bill

February 17, 2011

Learn the basics about the RH Bill. By Ana Santos

Reproductive health is not just a poor woman’s concern. Many brush off the need for the RH Bill thinking that it is only about sex and only for women who cannot afford to purchase modern contraception pills and condoms. But reproductive health is everyone’s concern. Think about every person you know (or are related to) who has had: a) an unwanted pregnancy, b) an additional pregnancy they could not afford, c) has considered terminating a pregnancy, or d) who has suffered from pregnancy-related complications and you will know that RH should concern every person who is able to bring life into the world and bear what should be the joyful responsibility of caring for it.

Read on for a no-nonsense run down of what the RH Bill means and why it’s relevant to you.

1. IT WILL STANDARDIZE RH POLICIES

Because there is national legislation on RH in place, varying RH policies are implemented in the local government unit level (LGU). These policies and provisions are often subject to the whims and personal religious beliefs of LGU officials.

In Manila for example, when staunch pro-life advocate Lito Atienza was mayor, he was able to pass the infamous Executive Order (E.O.) 003. This E.O. effectively declared the City of Manila as a provider only of pro-life methods. Thus, women were denied access to modern contraception methods (pills, condoms) and procedures (ligation) in government-run hospitals.

In contrast, Quezon City, often regarded as having one of the most progressive RH policies in the country, makes both modern and traditional family planning services available to its constituents for free.

(Photo by steakpinball via Flickr Creative Commons)

2. THE RH BILL DOES NOT PROMOTE ABORTION.

Let us repeat that for further emphasis: the RH Bill does not promote abortion. It does, however, mandate that humane and non-discriminating treatment be extended to women who suffer from life threatening, post-abortion complications.

To put this into context and emphasize why it is important, we must know that while abortion is illegal in the Philippines, the government has done little to prevent self-induced and unsafe abortions. And medical practitioners who help women suffering from these complications stand to lose their licenses. Studies from the US-based reproductive health think tank Guttmacher Institute, show that there are an estimated 90,000 women hospitalized annually for abortion-related complications. The approval RH Bill ensures that these women will be given proper medical care and not be subject to even further pain or humiliation

According to Likhaan.org, if all those who want to space or stop childbearing would use modern family planning methods, abortions would fall by some 500,000.

(Photo by christine via Flickr Creative Commons)

3. IT WILL TEACH YOUNG PEOPLE TO BE RESPONSIBLE ABOUT THE CHOICES THEY MAKE WHEN IT COMES TO INTIMATE RELATIONS, FAMILY PLANNING, AND SEXUAL HEALTH.

Under Sec. 16 of the Consolidated RH Bill, age-appropriate reproductive health and sex education shall be taught by properly trained teachers in formal and non-formal educational systems starting from Grade 5 up to senior year in high school.

It should be noted that the teachers will receive training from the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Health (DOH)–all the government agencies who have been designated to formulate the Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education curriculum.

More importantly, the standardized curriculum will not cover just sex but also information on protection against sexual violence and abuse, discrimination, sexually transmitted infections, and responsible parenthood.

(Photo by eizus via Flickr Creative Commons)

4. IT WILL GIVE ACCURATE INFORMATION ON POSITIVE SEXUALITY AND SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION TO YOUNG PEOPLE.

According to a 2005 study conducted by the Remedios AIDS Foundation (RAF), three out of ten youths think that jumping after sex will provide pregnancy. And two out of three youths think that drinking antibiotics before sex will prevent STI.

Until now, many young people–regardless of economic or social status–believe these myths to be true. The approval of the RH Bill will ensure that the proper information about sexual health will be given to the youth to give them the knowledge that they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

(Photo by raymundopelayo via Flickr Creative Commons)

5. THE RH BILL DOES NOT ENDORSE PROMISCUITY

Saying that the passage of the RH Bill will promote promiscuity is like saying people are going to be more reckless behind the wheel just because a seat belt law was passed.

The passing of the RH Bill will not change people’s minds about what decisions they make about their sexual relations. What it aims to do is provide people with accurate information and allow them to make choices based on these data.

(Photo by pedrosimoes7 via Flickr Creative Commons)

6. THE RH BILL RESPECTS EACH INDIVIDUAL’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE.

In her article entitled, “If this Bill Could Talk”, Elizabeth Angsioco, chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) defines the RH Bill as being “pro-choice”.

“You all have the right to make informed decisions, to choose from among options that should be available to you. There is nothing in me that coerces anyone. All I will do is make RH information and services available to you should YOU DECIDE to use them.” writes Angsioco.

To support her point, Angsioco identifies sections 7 , 16, 24, and 28 of the RH Bill as specific items that give Filipinos the freedom to choose intelligently

(Photo by eizus via Flickr Creative Commons)

7. THE RH BILL WILL LESSEN THE INSTANCES OF MISTIMED OR UNWANTED PREGNANCIES.

In the Philippines, four babies are born every minute. This makes the Philippines the 12th most populous nation in the world and has the highest fertility rate in the region, at 3.03%. Unfortunately, the Philippines also has the highest unemployment rate in the Southeast Asian region at 8% compared to neighbors Indonesia at 7.9%, Vietnam at 4.6%, Malaysia at 3.7% and Thailand at 1.5%.

A large population is detrimental to a country’s economic resources. Congresswoman Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan Citizen’s Action Partylist says, “Population growth is a public welfare issue that affects the poorest of the poor. Other poverty containment efforts will never be sufficient until we can curb population growth.”

No one contests that babies are blessings. But it is precisely because of this that they should be planned for, cared for, and given the best possible future that parents provide. Every pregnancy should be planned and wanted.

(Photo source: sxc.hu)

8. THE RH BILL WILL SAVE LIVES.

According to the number of HIV infections tracked by the DOH AIDS Registry, HIV is on an unprecedented rise in the Philippines. Every day, 5 new cases of HIV are diagnosed. Women–even those in monogamous relationships–are equally at risk for being infected if their partners engage in risky sexual behavior.

Over 200 million people don’t have access to modern contraceptives. Giving these women access could reduce the number of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortions by 82 percent.

In the Philippines, experts say that expanding access to contraception could result in 800,000 fewer unplanned births, 500,000 fewer induced abortions, and 200,000 fewer miscarriages. What’s more, it could prevent as many as 2,100 maternal deaths each year—nearly half of all deaths from pregnancy-related causes.

The RH Bill ensures that access to both RH services and information is available and thus, empowering each person to protect his/herself from STI and HIV infection; mistimed pregnancy, thus, lowering maternal deaths and HIV infections.

(Photo by juhansonin via Flickr Creative Commons)

9. THE RH BILL WILL REDUCE THE INEQUITY BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR.

Likhaan cites that RH indicators show severe inequities between the rich and poor. For example, 94% of women in the richest quintile have a skilled attendant at birth, while only 26% of the poorest can do so. The wealthy hardly exceed their planned number of children, while the poorest get an extra two.

Apart from its benefits from a health standpoint, there is also a correlation between family size and poverty incidence. According to Ernesto Pernia, a professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics said, “Having fewer children will allow the poor to invest more in education and health for their children to improve their lives when they grow up.”

(Photo by Tuca Vieria via Wikimedia Commons)

10. IT WILL HELP SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT THE MYTHS THAT SURROUND MODERN CONTRACEPTION METHODS.

Section 10 of the consolidated RH Bill will mandate family planning supplies as essential medicines included in the inventory of local hospitals and other government health units.

But contraceptive pills do not induce abortions. According to a statement on the Philippine Obstetrical and Gyne Society (POGS), contraceptive pills:

a. Do not cause abortion; in fact they prevent unwanted pregnancies.
b. Do not cause death and disease when used appropriately. The hormones in the pills are synthetic hormones that are comparable to those produced by women’s ovaries. They are modified in doses and composition to make them better, safer and predictable in their medical effects.
c. Do not cause cancer; in fact they reduce cancer of the endometrium and ovaries. The reported slight increase in the risk for breast cancer is obviated by taking pills based on the national clinical guidelines

(Photo source: sxc.hu)

Source: http://www.femalenetwork.com/health-wellness/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-reproductive-health-bill

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