Reproductive health bill
There appears to be three major points of view from which to approach the controversial reproductive health bill now pending with the House of Representatives for plenary deliberations, namely: legal, moral, and scientific. This is so since, the proposed legislative measure once enacted into law will affect society writ large. In short, there are many stakeholders by differing institutional concerns. It then becomes difficult to erect a tripod to hold the issue that has carried so much weight.
There are those who think, once legislated, HB 812 or the proposed Reproductive Health Care Act of 2008 will in fact set the stage for other anti-life laws or so-called D.E.A.T.H. bills (acronym for death, euthanasia, abortion, two-child policy, and homosexuality). The problem that has been viciously overlooked in our legislative mill is the fact that legislators themselves violate the rule that a bill should have only one subject matter. Truth is, HB 812 may have to be broken up into separate bills and for that matter into separate laws. An evolving culture of “aquarium legislation” is tantamount to a constitutional violation of the legislative process.
Up until today, there is a serious opposition to a reproductive health bill in whatever form or substance it comes simply because there are such groups or organizations that are against it. For instance, the CBCP is against it and for that matter other like-minded Catholic sub-groups. True enough, from the time it was first filed in the past Congresses, the bill already experienced a string of failures – to be passed into law – owing to provisions that are questionable legally, morally, and scientifically. It can be said that again, this proposed HB 812 may go through another rough sailing unless it can be railroaded in Congress and Senate.
One theory stands in defense of the bill which claims it is necessary in order to curb population growth which is now pegged at 86 million Filipinos as well as for the sake of limited resources such as rice. But the myth of this Malthusian fear has already been settled long ago and it does not anymore hold water. Why a ‘zero population growth’ as that which was a matter of policy in the whole of the United States and Europe? If we consider the earnings being remitted into our country from OFWs as the single factor that buoys up our fledging if pale economy, then we should have no reason to argue against this bill. That ‘zero population policy’ practiced by countries in the First Bloc now reached the irreversible scenario of a graying population that depletes their respective economies in heavy state subsidies. Is it then a boon or bane?
The National Academy of Science and Technology supports reproductive health bill. The Catholic Church or the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines does not. There are pro-life advocates versus pro-choice advocates. This camp says it involves no abortion, another camp says otherwise. This group claims contraceptives to be abortifacient, another such group claims it is not so. Within the legal community, a wedge divides their sentiments as to whether it is against the Divine Law to allow any room of choice toward abortion or to some extent euthanasia. Cases of abortion do sometimes involve “life-boat ethics” – that Catch 22 of having to choose which person to save – the unborn babe or the mother. There are issues at every loop, claims at every turn, and cries in every direction the bill takes – for or against.
Moralists, legalists, scientists follow their own lines of thinking that are parallel unto one another – no lines intersect. There is where the problem lies. Is it then possible to weave from various strands or threads a beautiful tapestry of the proposed bill? Has it become time to curb population growth or corruption? Incidentally, the Secretary of Health announced that an initial amount of P150 billion as start-up fund is intended for this project in terms of the “infrastructure” to get it going. Fact is, some P2 billion will be so allocated just for condoms or like medicines or drugs. Is this the reason that politicians as legislators incessantly lobby for the reproductive health bill to be legislated into law?
My good friend, lawyer Jo Imbong, legal counsel of CBCP really thinks it is unconstitutional in that it violates Article XVI, Section 9 as well as Article XIII, Section 14 of the Constitution. My former boss, Rep. Rene Velarde of Buhay Party-List is strongly against it in furtherance of the pro-life advocacy of the party which made it number 1 in the election chart overturning Bayan. Other well-meaning personages are against the idea of an abortion, first and foremost. Proponents of the bill however, argue that none of it is contemplated. But that can be mere lip service to sweet-talk us all to believe the proposed law will not violate any of the provisions of the Constitution in so far as the unborn, children, mothers, women, and marginalized are concerned. Nor can it be claimed that the reproductive health bill stands on solid ground when in fact, it stands on an ice floe that would soon melt at the heat of debate and crumble to the bottom.
At the end of the day, the proposed measure ought to be restudied very carefully beyond the prevailing points of view. A recent study of the UP School of Economics tended to have oversimplified it as one of a situation that placed the various stakeholders between a hard Church and a soft State. It went on to state that the RH bill is in fact pro-poor, pro-life, and pro-family. We sure have all different sense on the matter but honestly, I have only one misgiving in the provisions of the bill that would – by any number and extent – accommodate, in effect, post-abortion cases as part of the whole program. Thus, for the proponent to honestly claim there is no such abortion in cases where there would clearly be, crystal clear enough – is simply begging the question.
PRIMER C. PAGUNURAN