What is the real import of HB 4244?

Reading the text of HB 4244 is, offhand, worrisome than how a bill or law should normally read – comprehensible to the average mind. In short, it should be read and understood with extreme caution before one even decides to express ayes or nayes to it.

There is no existing State policy, literally enough, that ‘guarantees exercise of the universal basic human right to reproductive health’, is there? For in truth, legal scholars think that it is oxymoronic to even claim of ‘reproductive health rights’ as this idea is an unknown creature.

Nor may such oxymoron only favor the poor in the Great Cultural Divide or such right necessarily ceases to be universal if it carries with it that inherent class bias.

Note quickly that in the bill, reproductive health rights refer to the “rights of couples, individuals and women to decide freely and responsibly whether or not to have children; to determine the number, spacing and timing of their children; to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence; to have relevant information; and to attain the highest condition of sexual and reproductive health”.

The act of deciding – to have or not to have children – in the context of freedom and responsibility necessarily escapes comprehension unless any child, girl, or woman on guise of exercise of her free choice really does decide as she pleases as though the State guarantees it.

Nothing in the bill explains the phrase, albeit with much redundancy – “provision of medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable and effective reproductive health care services and supplies is essential in the promotion of people’s right to health, especially for the marginalized” (lines 15-18 of page 2; lines 7-9 of page 3; lines 4-5 of page 6; and so on ad infinitum).

Truly, there should have been at least a good attempt to define the operative words – “safe, legal, effective, affordable modern methods” – that such a bill sort of forces the State to guarantee.

The entirely myopic notion of development as being narrowly equated with population uncharacteristically takes moorings what couples or parents or teenagers figure out of family size or pregnancy.

The definition alone of reproductive health care might be advancing the unproved if not continually contested view that a ‘full range of methods, facilities, services and supplies contribute to reproductive health and well-being’. For example, IUD is not as safe as is claimed or believed.

Also note how letter i of Section 3 (HB 4244) is stated – “While this Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law, the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner”. From which side of the sea do we look here?

Proceed with caution in understanding two somewhat correlational terms, namely, 1) basic emergency obstetric care and 2) comprehensive emergency obstetric care. Quite unpretentiously, manual removal of placenta or retained products and assisted vaginal delivery to deliveries by surgical procedure, respectively are allowed.

The bill’s definition of responsible parenthood as referring to the “will, ability and commitment of parents to adequately respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children by responsibly and freely exercising their reproductive rights” might be baffling. Do children, in the context of the bill, have responsibility and more so the freedom to exercise their reproductive rights as if such rights were already within their full understanding? Educate us.

Throughout the provisions of the bill, it has focused on the 1) provision of emergency obstetric and neonatal care and 2) full range of modern family planning methods as the sine qua non, matter-of-factly. Thus, equipped with these requirements, hospitals or health care institutions and their medical and health professionals do insure success of the program, when push turns shove.

Finally, Section 28 on Prohibited Acts seems to carry the Sword of Damocles, keen as it is on inflicting, yes inflicting penalty against those who would go against the decision of the ‘one undergoing the procedure’, as if it were.

We make no further qualms to the rather nebulous provision that neither require nor impose a two child policy. We make no quarrel with those who are trying to defend the RH bill however doomed its passage into law is. Let us read and think clean – what in truth is the real import of HB 4244, pray tell.