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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Agencies defy GMA on family planning

By Efren L. Danao
Senior Reporter
The MANILA Times

Five line agencies of the government expressed support on Monday for the reproductive health bills pending before the Senate, thus openly defying the stand of President Gloria Arroyo on artificial methods of family planning.

During a public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, the Education, Health and Social Welfare departments and the Higher Education and Population commissions all recognized the “urgent” need for a national policy on reproductive health.

The Senate bills call for state-funded information on artificial and natural methods of family planning and access to services after individuals or couples had decided on what method to adopt. President Arroyo had toed the stand of the Catholic Church that natural methods are the only acceptable ways and that artificial ones promote abortion.

“The bills pending in the Senate move away from the stereotypical idea that women only exist to bear children, therefore giving light to other aspects of women’s health needs like the prevention and management of reproductive-tract infections and other gynecological conditions, elimination of violence against the sector and sexually-related education and counseling, among others,” a position paper of the Social-Welfare department said.

Health Undersecretary Mario Verde said the Health department supports the Senate bills’ calls for responsible parenthood, complete information on reproductive health and freedom of choice on size of family.

Non-government agencies also backed the passage of a law on reproductive health services. Pro-Life Philippines said the issue of reproductive health boils down to the individual right of women to phase their children as they deem appropriate and based on individual circumstances. The group described contraceptives as a health need. It said health is a human right and so the state should provide for it.

Former Sen. Francisco Tatad opposed the bills, saying they are unnecessary and are destructive of public morals and family values.

“Not only are they hedonistic, they are above all eugenicists. They seek to eliminate the poor and the socially unfit while paying lip service to their cause. While they neither mandate a two-child family nor legalize abortion, they prepare the ground for both,” Tatad added. Eugenics is the science that deals with the improvement, as by birth control of human mating, of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, the committee chairman, said she is willing to impose stiffer sanctions on abortion just to show that the Senate is against any law that would allow it.

She indicated that her panel would endorse reproductive health services funded by the state and assured pro-life groups that this policy is not a state intervention into bedroom activities.

Cayetano said the Committee on Health would hold one more hearing before preparing a draft committee report.