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Liana Smith Bautista, Contributor
November 15, 2010

5 Misconceptions about the Reproductive Health Bill

FN lists 5 points used to protest the RH Bill--and explains why these are invalid. By Liana Smith-Bautista
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Article_RHBill_sxc.hu.jpgThe Reproductive Health Bill is perhaps one of the most controversial ones currently on our Congress's plate. Polls indicate that people support pro-RH measures, like former DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral's distribution of condoms on Valentine's Day earlier this year.

But what is keeping this bill from getting signed? Yes, there's strong opposition from the Catholic church, as evidenced by the fact that bishops will be bringing their own experts to the next RH Bill meeting with P-Noy (for more information on this, go to Spot.PH). But congressmen and senators would pass the bill if there was enough support for it among their constituents. So what is holding us back?

According to more than a few proponents, one of the leading reasons why people oppose the RH Bill is the prevalence of misconceptions about it--that is to say, the information on the bill that a lot of people have received is either wrong or incomplete.

FN hopes to clear up some of these by correcting 5 of the most common misconceptions about the bill:
  • The RH Bill is anti-life and anti-family.
  • The RH Bill is all about contraception.
  • The RH Bill is pro-abortion.
  • The RH Bill will promote a contraceptive mentality, which could lead to a demographic winter.
  • The provisions in the RH Bill would never work in a Catholic country like the Philippines.

MISCONCEPTION #1: The RH Bill is anti-life and anti-family.

CORRECTION: The RH Bill is pro-quality life for the whole family. It ensures that more children will grow up secure in the knowledge that they were wanted because their births were planned.

In response to the notion that the bill is anti-life and anti-family, Larah Lagman, chief of staff to Hon. Edcel Lagman of Albay, who authored and introduced House Bill 96 (the RH Bill) into Congress, pointed out that the RH Bill will help give people the knowledge and means to prevent unwanted pregnancy--not prevent pregnancy altogether.

"Have as many children as you want, but don't have any children you don't want," she said during an orientation on the RH Bill. Because, she explained a little later, a child should never be made to feel unwanted.

She also noted that the provisions for family planning in the bill will help ensure that women whose health could be put at risk by pregnancy, such as those with preexisting conditions like diabetes or whose pregnancies are spaced too close together, would be offered more control over their bodies and thus their own health. This in turn ensures that more children have a better chance of having two healthy care providers in their family, Lagman pointed out.

MISCONCEPTION #2: The RH Bill is all about contraception.

Although family planning is a major proponent of the RH Bill, the bill also gives women the right of access to the appropriate health care services that ensure as safe a pregnancy and childbirth as possible. These same health care services should give couples the best chance of having a healthy infant.

"It's not just about family planning," Ms. Lagman said in her orientation. "The issue has been boxed into family planning, but it's not limited to that. It includes, for example, helping couples who are having trouble conceiving to get the information and services they need to help them conceive."

Besides which, making contraceptives and knowledge of how and why one should use them has more benefits than simply preventing unwanted pregnancies: this also helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, like HIV/AIDS.

Besides which, the RH Bill does not compel family planning; passing it would simply mean that if a woman should decide to engage in family planning, the state would be required to provide her with the information and supplies she needs in order to do so.

MISCONCEPTION #3: The RH Bill is pro-abortion.

CORRECTION: Under Philippine law, abortion is illegal. The RH Bill does not, in any way, legalize abortion.

In fact, many of the RH Bill's staunchest supporters hope that providing information on contraceptive use as well as making contraceptives widely available will help reduce the instances of illegal abortions. This is because abortion involves terminating an unwanted pregnancy, which is specifically what contraceptives are designed to prevent.

MISCONCEPTION #4: The RH Bill will promote a contraceptive mentality, which could lead to a demographic winter.

CORRECTION: If what is meant by "a contraceptive mentality that could lead to a demographic winter" is that people will want to stop having children, causing the end or endangerment of Filipinos as a race, Mother Nature herself will prove this patently untrue.

Since procreation is a biological imperative--in less fancy terms, couples won't stop wanting to have children simply because pills, condoms, and other contraceptives are made available to them.

This is a scare tactic used by people who don't understand the dynamics of population momentum, claims Lagman. "Gusto pa rin ng tao magparami, kahit ano ang gagawin mo. . . . Hindi po talaga mauuobs ang mga Filipino. (People are going to want to procreate, whatever you do. . . . We're not going to run out of Filipinos.)"

MISCONCEPTION #5: The provisions in the RH Bill would never work in a Catholic country like the Philippines.

CORRECTION: And yet, Lagman pointed out, countries with a larger Catholic population than our own push contraceptives, especially as a measure to discourage abortion. She named South American countries in particular, many of which are more than 90 percent Catholic. The Catholics of the Philippines, on the other hand, account for between 80 and 83 percent of the total population.

Elizabeth Angsioco, the national chairperson for the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), had this to say on this topic: "Just because 80 to 85 percent of all Filipinos are Catholic, that shouldn't confuse us into thinking that the laws that should be passed are Catholic too, kasi may separation of church and state."

Besides which, proponents are quick to point out, the RH Bill does not force people to practice family planning. It only gives people the right to choose to if they wish it. Thus, those who believe that using modern forms of contraception is wrong will never be required to use them. As the expression goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)
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  • reeya Nov 15 2010 @ 08:19am Report Abuse
    i support the RH bill. we really need this. stop listening to the catholic church. this is not the dark age.practice the constitution which means that the state and the church should work independently.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • jmeangeL Nov 15 2010 @ 09:37am Report Abuse
    the supporters of the RH bill should conduct a signature campaign or an online poll to see that many of the Filipino today are in need of the RH Bill. To think that most of those who support the RH Bill are already in practice of family planning and family health care. This is more for those who has no access to information and should be enlightened.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • beth angsioco Nov 15 2010 @ 04:08pm Report Abuse
    pls. note that there are ongoing signature campaigns-- one done in communities and another online. The link to the online petition is http://petitiononline.com/rhan2008/petition.html kindly sign and share. Thanks. The RH Bill should be passed to arrest maternal deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. 11 women dying daily is massacre of poor Filipino women and must stop.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • novine Nov 23 2010 @ 05:12am Report Abuse
    i fully support the RH bill a lot of people need this... family planning is really good its just on the couples to look were they fit in....
    Last modified A long time ago
  • vivianchanel Nov 23 2010 @ 11:15am Report Abuse
    Last modified Nov 26 2010 @ 03:13pm
  • Vie Nov 30 2010 @ 01:40pm Report Abuse
    what are the limitations of this bill? difinition of terms? medyo di ko po kasi gets...para lang po ba 'to sa married? or may age (limit) na sakop ang bill?
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Trini Feb 11 2011 @ 12:00am Report Abuse
    I used to support the RH Bill but not anymore. I used to believe that women must have a right over their own body, and that we are heading for a population time bomb, which is why we need to control our population growth. However, the arguments put forward by Lagman are mere apologetics lacking in basis- i believe he wants a piece of that money meant for contraceptives--- but that's another story.. Anyway... Who is to say that a pregnancy is unwanted... The parents? Of course not. The moment a pregnancy is deemed unwanted, then the child is unwanted...The moment we as parents obtain for ourselves the right to decide which child lives or does not live means that we are playing God, which we obviously are not. We don't and cannot control our bodies, no matter how much technology we apply. Sex and Pregnancy is a sacred thing, and thus can no longer practice it for the sarap alone, which, sadly, is what many women's magazines would like us to think. i used to think that way thats why i used to have a drawer full of condoms them for my BFs to use. Now, i believe that sex is sacred, and its use reserved for LOVE alone. We only have one child without practicing any form of family planning, natural or otherwise. Likewise, i reviewed the statistics which point to a lowering population growth rate which i feel will continue... Sorry, we need a better RH Bill than the one presently proposed. Restricting the population for outdated arguments and risking social unrest is irresponsible.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • rose Feb 15 2011 @ 04:13pm Report Abuse
    i fully support the RH bill..it's time for the filipinos to be RESPONSIBLE... responsibility towards the children includes the 5 basic needs..nd only by then we will have HAPPY nd HEALTHY CHILDREN who are our future!
    Last modified A long time ago
  • denise Feb 26 2011 @ 08:25pm Report Abuse
    Last modified A long time ago
  • Evelyn May 12 2011 @ 01:03pm Report Abuse
    PRO RH BILL ALL THE WAY! We should be open minded about these things. Sobrang passe' na ang utos na " Go Forth And Multiply". Hello? Overpopulated na ang Pilipinas.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • dolly May 16 2011 @ 01:20am Report Abuse
    I support RH Bill, as the bible put it, Go and multiply....and SUBDUE it!(Genesis 1:28) RH Bill should be taught properly so every confused soul will be enlightened, especially the poor.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • shelly May 19 2011 @ 01:34pm Report Abuse
    The RH bill is not about restricting families...it does not impose nor punish. The RH bill is so that funds will be available to arm people with the knowledge that NO, you do not have to suffer the hardships of a big family and YES, you can actually do something to control the number of your children, and provide an avenue for those who do not want to have big families, to actually not have big families. A pack of condom means lunch (and maybe even dinner) for some families. A free condom will let them fill their hungry stomach, without the consequences of not using a condom.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • John Aug 30 2011 @ 02:11pm Report Abuse
    RH bill won't work in the Philippines.
    Last modified A long time ago
  • yvette Sep 03 2011 @ 09:43am Report Abuse
    people from the church will NEVER understand RH Bill, simply because they have the vow of celibacy, they can never relate well on this matter, on certain things only couple understands.
    Last modified A long time ago
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Liana Smith Bautista
Liana Smith Bautista was an editor with Female Network from December 2010 until July 2012. She now works part-time as a freelance writer and editor and helps run her family's beach resort the rest of the time... Read more...
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