Constitution Does Not Prohibit RH Bill — Sen. Santiago

By Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
8:34 pm | Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—There are no impediments to the Senate’s passage of a Reproductive Health bill because the Constitution does not prohibit it.

“The Constitution, directly or indirectly, does not prohibit the RH bill … Since there is no prohibition of an RH bill in our Constitution, it is constitutional for this Senate to pass the bill, until the Supreme Court rules otherwise,” said Senator Miriam Santiago.

The senator delivered the second and third installments of her sponsorship speech on the RH bill Wednesday afternoon. Part one delivered last month focused on the theological explanations in support of the RH bill.

Santiago said the high incidence of poverty and lack of education among most Filipino women make it imperative for lawmakers to craft a law to ensure that their pregnancies occur under healthy circumstances.

“If the Senate passes the RH bill, our action would amount to a legislative construction of the Constitution … hence, if we pass the RH bill, it will enjoy a presumption of constitutionality if it is questioned in the SC,” she explained.

President Aquino on Tuesday indicated he wants the quick passage of 13 measures including a “fine-tuned” RH bill that is more palatable to the Catholic Church.

The Catholic hierarchy and lay leaders have expressed objections to the RH bill. Their arguments have centered mostly on claims that artificial birth control methods are akin to abortion.

Santiago said women of childbearing age need most of all, information about reproductive health issues.

“The right of the mother to protect herself and her baby from death-dealing poverty is a liberty protected under the Due Process Clause,” Santiago noted.

“Similarly, the right of the mother in the lowest social class is equal to the right of the mother in the highest social class, when both rights pertain to freedom of information,” she added.

“Thus, to make information on reproductive health accessible to the rich but not to the poor would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause,” Santiago said.

The senator said that in 1968, the Philippines already participated in the International Conference on Human Rights and became a party to the Proclamation of Tehran providing that “parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”

“The Philippines is a party to several treaties requiring our government to pass a reproductive health act. A treaty is like a contract. If we fail to pass the RH bill, we are breaking our contract with other states,” she said.

Apart from the Tehran Proclamation, the country is also a party to the following treaties: 1976 International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights; 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1994 Program of Action of International Conference on Population and Development.

Santiago also pointed out that the RH bill protects a couple’s right to privacy.

“The right to privacy applies to sex, marriage and procreation … The State cannot restrict the right of married persons to use contraceptives. The State cannot prohibit distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons. And the State cannot require that contraceptives should be sold only by pharmacists,” she explained.

In the third portion of her speech, Santiago said the RH bill would provide for information service especially for the youth.

Santiago said this is significant since findings of a UP study showed that many young people engage in risky sexual behavior and rarely seek medical help for reproductive health problems.

“Sexuality education does not encourage promiscuity among the youth. On the contrary, if young people know more about sexual health, they are even more likely to postpone sexual initiation,” the senator said.



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