P.S. to HB 5043 – reproductive health bill?

P.S. to HB 5043 – reproductive health bill?

It challenges reflection that a lawyer, instead of a doctor, is the chief architect and single strong advocate of House Bill 5043 which actually consolidated into one, House Bills 17, 812, 2753 and 3920 in this 14th Congress. The simple idea of gender equality easily permits room for women proponents themselves, in either House or Senate, to be the mouthpiece as well as the voice behind such a now controversial bill that is met with so much opposition from not few traditional groups – not Rep. Edcel Lagman – unless otherwise no other proponent from the female species is available. Women issues are the exclusive domain of women, or so I thought?

Offhand, HB 5043 pretentiously placed reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and population development under its policy framework. Good. But, let us be reminded that a single legislative measure such as HB 5043 that carries more than three subject matters is actually violative of “overloading”. Bottomline, that is the way professors of law teaching on “How a Bill becomes a Law” always teach us. Where will HB 5043 all transport us to? Such a would-be law that prohibits and in fact penalizes any health care service provider who refuses to perform medically-safe reproductive health care services in the absence of spousal consent or authorization is revolting. What is this?

Boldly, the bill claims the policy is anchored on the rationale of sustainable development with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens. Truly, this carries some kind of racist bias against those otherwise unhealthy, uneducated, and unproductive in our realpolitik. Is this Hitler’s idea of a “super race”? What about China with approximately two billion population that has managed equitably well without compromising its position as the next economic superpower? I say as anecdotal the sweet claim of a population management stratagem of a two-child policy. The proponent himself has more than two of his own, doesn’t he?

If we have higher population than any developing country in the world, it is a blessing especially so that all developing countries, no exception, are now suffering from a graying population and are now in search of manpower to replace their aging manpower base. Where then do they have to import human capital? Where will they recruit the Industrial Reserve Army but from the Philippines? Have we as much as forget that OFW remittances of our fellow Filipinos buoys up an otherwise fledging economy? The next generation of overseas workers to fill the great demand of manpower from the global market has to be born now – beyond the two-child limit. This kind of thinking might run counter to the bill’s claim that manpower is the principal asset of every country.

If there will be a universal access to quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information, this means that a whole range of options is at anybody’s disposal. Studies have already validated that reproductive health care as practiced in the more developed societies already negative impacted upon the home, family life, career, social milieu, culture, and society as a whole. It has been shown that women committed suicides. It has been shown that the incidence of broken families rose. It has been shown that children from broken homes are what triggered dramatic rise in the crime statistical chart. As divorces multiply, broken homes multiply just as well. Medically, a lot of these so-called contraceptive pills are not safe and just how many pills are manufactured in a minute and at what cost?

Shotgun approach has been the design of HB 5043 – it will kill all birds that took flight – adults, adolescents, children – without distinction. It sounds crazy for the bill to claim that women seeking care from post-abortion complications shall be treated and consoled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner without being guilty of doing abortion in the unseen process. This kind of intended access opens the door wide to a lot of other possibilities in need of reproductive health care attention, not to be excluded, would be abortion itself at its initial stage. To give people the freedom to decide, if, when and how often to have a satisfying and safe sex life, as claimed, tears at the very moral fabric of our social existence.

What then constitute as reproductive health-related problems that the bill aims to prevent and avoid, reason for a full range of options? Openly enough, the bill espouses making available all methods and techniques to prevent unwanted, unplanned, and mistimed pregnancies but what exactly are these? Pregnancies – whether or not wanted, planned, or timed – are pregnancies. Any act or means to be sought to prevent it should be called as what? It would not be abortion, would it? Whoever invented these labels without any scientific basis ought to be a murderer?

It is noticeable how a proviso has been carried that would, in effect, expand the coverage of the National Health Insurance Program or NHIP especially to many poor and marginalized women to include a full range of reproductive health care services and supplies as health insurance benefits. Will money be inserted in another else’s pocket? How much in State subsidies will be infused into a supposed-to-be existing program or agency, again and again?

Rider or not to a proposed bill, the creation of a Board of Commissioners of POPCOM (or Population Commission) of 14 heads of agencies plus 3 representatives from the private sector ought to be the subject matter of another and separate bill yet to be proposed and filed in Congress considering that when a board meets, honoraria are given. At the very least, their appointment by the President for a term of 3 years means that some people get to be employed, first and second, time. Even the Department of Agriculture and the Commission on Higher Education will be members thereof make for Ripleys.

Again, more midwives or skilled attendants need to be employed in every municipality or city based on some ideal ratio. More qualified personnel in each city or province will have to be employed in hospitals to provide emergency obstetric care, again, based on ideal ratio of say one such hospital for every 500,000 population. How good indeed that indigent patients will be covered by PhilHealth insurance benefits for hospital services related to family planning? Again, are we putting money in another else’s pocket?

Another apparent caveat of the proposed HB 5043 is the fact that every congressional district will be provided a van for Mobile Health Care Service from their PDAF but it is not stated too clear if this means an additional budget to their PDAF. A mandatory health reproductive education will be required of those from Grade V to Fourth Year High School. Will parents agree to this law? Inserting 10% additional increase in the honoraria of barangay health workers is truly an inducement. Will not barangay captains or mayors agree to this scheme and its pecuniary benefits?

From where I stand, readers of HB 5043 can read with caution the corpus of purely statistical data in the explanatory note of the bill from which it based its goal to erect a law that is always met with extreme opposition from those thought to become its beneficiaries as well as to its intended victims. In the end, adults, adolescents, and children that the bill purports to help will be the true victims of a law that is easy enough to approve given that it has “strings attached” to it. Not remotely, some laws really self-destruct as soon as they get implemented and this proposed measure shall be one of them. Since coins will be dropped in the vendo machine, many legislators might tend to stamp their own approval of HB 5043, irrespective of dictates of conscience – and so be it.

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