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Monday, August 27, 2007

Reproductive health bill tries to address Church concerns

To RH/PopDev ADvocates, it seems policy advocacy efforts and initiatives are bearing fruit. Hopefully, this congress makes the difference!!!

RH Bill tries to address Church concerns

By Christian V. Esguerra
Last updated 11:20pm (Mla time) 08/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines
--There’s some bad news and good news for the Catholic Church and pro-life advocates.

An administration lawmaker has resurrected a piece of a legislation previously criticized for allegedly trying to control population growth in the country.

Mindful of the dispproving views of the Catholic hierarchy, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin said her Reproductive Health Care Act, omitted contentious issues that led to the demise of similar bills in the 13th Congress.

Gone was the provision which encouraged couples to stop at two children in exchange for a government scholarship and other benefits, according to the lawmaker.

Garin’s bill made optional sex education and the provision of artificial family planning methods such as the use of pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and Depo Provera injectables. Many of these techniques were described as abortifacients by pro-life advocates.

“I hope this (new bill) will now be acceptable to the Church,” Garin told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of in an interview. “We excluded the contentious provisions so there should be no problems.”

Garin, a physician, said her bill was centered on educating the public on reproductive health and allowing couples to choose between natural and artificial family planning methods.

“The point here is to educate people on what method is most suitable for them,” she said.

The information-dissemination approach was not exactly new in the protracted debate between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

In the government’s previous “Ligtas Buntis” program, the Department of Health went around the country to educate the public on reproductive health. But government health workers were criticized for allegedly selling only the idea of artificial methods.

“That’s because they’re easier to teach than the natural method,” one former health worker told the Inquirer newspaper.

Garin initiated the debate on an effective reproductive health measure by delivering a five-page privilege speech.

“My dear colleagues, I am very much aware of the differing views on reproductive health,” she said. “However, I believe it is the responsibility of Congress to discuss and debate the matter in plenary. Only through a comprehensive and deliberate discussion can we determine the truth, and achieve a consensus on such an urgent matter for our people.”

The lawmaker cited several studies which drew a correlation between poverty and family size, an old formula consistently debunked by the Church and pro-life advocates.

During interpellation, one male lawmaker suggested that Congress do some “preparatory work” to deal with “stumbling blocks” to the new measure. He proposed a series of dialogues with the Catholic Church and President Macapagal-Arroyo to ensure that the bill would be passed this time.

He expressed fears that Ms Arroyo, an avowedly devout Catholic, would eventually succumb to pressure from the Church.

Garin shot down the proposal, maintaining that the House of Representatives was independent from the executive branch.