Revised version of RH bill introduced in HouseBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines—A revised version of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which contains new “acceptable” amendments, made its way around the House of Representatives Wednesday.
The substitute bill was announced during session by House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II and distributed to lawmakers.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, proponent of House Bill 4244, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill, said that the new version contains the following new amendments, which he said were deemed acceptable to both warring factions of the measure:
1.) The State guarantees public access to relevant information and education on medically safe, legal, ethical, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices and supplies that do not prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
2.) The State shall likewise prioritize the needs of poor women and men in marginalized households as identified by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) and other government measures of identifying marginalization, who shall be voluntary beneficiaries of reproductive healthcare, services and supplies for free.
3.) The State shall also provide funding support to promote modern natural methods of family planning consistent with the needs of acceptors.
4.) The State shall promote openness to life, provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly humane way.
5.) There shall be no demographic and population targets and the mitigation, promotion and/or stabilization of the population growth rate are incidental to the advancement of reproductive health and sustainable human development.
6.) Family planning information and services shall include as a first priority making women of reproductive age fully aware of their respective fertility cycles.
7.) The teaching of reproductive health and sexuality education shall be promoted and conducted with due deference to cultural, religious and ethical norms of various communities.
8.) Flexibility in the teaching of reproductive health and sexuality education shall be accorded to sectarian schools within the provisions and parameters of the Section on age-appropriate mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education.
9.) The FDA shall update the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF) with respect to modern family planning products and supplies in accordance with standard medical practice.
Lagman said that these amendments were made “to address the objections, reservations and concerns of oppositors.” He said that the latest changes were the results of their latest round of consultations.
He assured that the amendments introduced in the substitute bill “do not dilute or destroy the essence of the original bill even as they accommodate the suggestions and concerns of well-meaning oppositors.”
Names of those involved in the most recent discussions on HB 4244 have, however, been kept under a tight lid by Lagman who has maintained that such information, for now, was confidential.
Delaying tactics have been rife during sessions at the House of Representatives since the recent termination of debates on the RH Bill. Several lawmakers against the proposed measure have effectively slowed down efforts of pro-RH Bill congressmen to open the period of amendments.
Prior to the release of the substitute bill, Lagman had introduced the following 10 “acceptable” amendments to the RH Bill:
1.) Deletion of the provision on “Ideal Family Size” to assure critics that the bill does not impose a “two-child policy” like China’s “one-child policy.”
2.) Deletion of the section on “Employer’s Responsibilities” to address concerns that a similar provision in Article 134 of the Labor Code is already adequate.
3.) Deletion of the section on “Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines” to accommodate objections that such a prior classification cannot be made by law.
4.) Deletion of the prohibited act on malicious disinformation in order to fully guarantee the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion.
5.) Assurance of funding support to promote modern natural methods of family planning like the Billings, Sympto-Thermal and Standard Days methods.
6.) Hospitals owned and operated by a religious group are given the option not to provide “a full range of modern family planning methods” in order to further guarantee religious freedom.
7.) Imposition of penalties to pharmaceutical companies, whether domestic or multinational, that collude with government officials and employees in the purchase, procurement and distribution of modern family planning supplies, products and devices, and/or contribute to partisan political activities, in order to disabuse the minds of critics that there is a pharmaceutical lobby for the enactment of the RH bill.
8.) Deletion of the provision making the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as the mandatory source for the acquisition and operation of the Mobile Health Care Service vehicles to respect the differing views of Congresspersons.
9.) Emphasis that the bill is not a population control measure.
10.) Parents are given the option not to allow their minor children to attend reproductive health and sexuality education classes to accord respect to religious convictions and beliefs.
The RH Bill is one of the measures expected to be tackled once legislators reconvene on November 5 after going on recess for All Saints’ Day.