RH Bill in the Philippines

The RH Bill has and continues to stir all kinds of frenzy in the Philippines, the only country in the world that still hasn’t made divorce illegal nor has it legislated comprehensive reproductive health education and services. In the 21st century, the resistance of the Philippine government to provide women with access to pap smears, breast and cervical cancer scans, etc. is at best negligent and, at very worst, abhorrent.

Of course we can’t keep the Catholic church’s influence out of this disucssion. A relative of mine, a staunch anti-RH Bill person, has said before its ‘population control’ that we need not birth control or abortion. The problem with that is that  ‘Population control’ attributes a growing population to the unruly behavior of poor people, without taking into consideration the lack of education and health services that is needed for family planning.

Anyway, just recently the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has tried to catch the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), one of the co sponsors of the House Bill 4244 otherwise known as the RH Bill, in the snares of the population control debate, claiming that GWP  admits that the bill they themselves are proposing is not “pro-poor and pro-women.” They left out the rest of the sentence that said that the RH Bill can’t be pro-poor and pro-women “as long as it espouses population control.”

Bulatlat has a better written piece on this HERE.

I think we, Filipino Americans, who think we’re thousands of miles away from the islands from this debate need to listen up (or at least READ up), since similar retreats from basic women’s health care and attacks on women’s bodies are happening right here at home too.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, one of my modern day heroines has written a response which I’m quoting below:

21 February 2012


CBCP for Life

470 Gen. Luna St., Intramuros
1002 Manila, Philippines


Dear Editors,


In the interest of fairness and accuracy we hope that the “CBCP for Life” will find space for this clarificatory statement in response to an article which appeared in the “CBCP for Life” website on February 20, 2012. The undersigned was quoted out of context thus making it appear that Gabriela, a primary author and advocate for the RH bill supposedly admits that the RH bill is not pro-poor and pro-women.


Gabriela Women’s Party has long advocated for a national reproductive health policy that will guarantee marginalized women’s full access to comprehensive maternal and reproductive healthcare.


The consolidated RH bill currently contains several provisions that will help ensure poor women and children’s access to healthcare, such as the following:


§  Mobile health clinics that will ensure the delivery of health services to far-flung communities and barangays.

§  Improvement and upgrade of equipment available in public health care facilities, including barangay health centers to ensure that they are able to conduct basic reproductive health care procedures such as pap smears.

§  Pro-bono reproductive health care services for indigent women by making it mandatory for all health care workers to provide at least 48 hours annually of reproductive health services free of charge to indigent patients, especially pregnant adolescents.


However, the RH Bill currently contains three provisions pertaining to population control:


§  Section 2, Guiding Principles, (l): The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes the allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless;

§  Section 12, Integration of Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Component in Anti-Poverty Programs; and

§  Section 25, Implementing Mechanism, where the Population Commission, rather than the DOH per se, is mandated to serve as the coordinating body in the implementation of this bill.


Gabriela Women’s Party believes the RH bill’s provisions on population control will overshadow its pro-poor provisions and threatens to effectively confine the delivery of reproductive and maternal health care services to the implementation of population control programs, the distribution of contraceptives and population control mechanisms.


Moreover, the population control aspects of the RH bill conveniently blame poverty on women’s bodies, fertility and population while disregarding the impact of social inequities and neo-liberal policies on the country’s growing hunger and poverty.


Gabriela Women’s Party remains firm in its position against population control. It will continue to push for amendments to the bill, including the removal of provisions pertaining to population control.


Gabriela Women’s Party will continue to fight for full women’s access to healthcare and fight not just for the retention of the pro-poor provisions in the RH bill but will also fight for increased budgetary allocation for healthcare as well as the granting of increased maternity benefits for women workers, among others.


Lastly, it is our fervent hope that the Catholic hierarchy, with its preferential option for the poor, will join us in the struggle for genuine reforms to help uplift the lives of poor Filipino women and their families.






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