Will the reproductive health bill (RH) pass the House of Representatives?
The answer will be known on Wednesday after representatives, either supporting or opposing the measure, agreed to put House Bill 4244 to a vote on second reading.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday said he and other opponents of the bill had agreed on the date, Dec. 12, because it was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the unborn.
“Wednesday will be D-Day. The 14-year war on the RH bill will finally end,” he said in a phone interview.
Rodriguez said the agreement came about during a meeting with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte just before the session resumed on Wednesday afternoon.
“The anti-RH group agreed on the date because we are confident of our numbers,” he said.
Rodriguez pegged at 136 the number of House members who will vote against HB 4244. He said only 95 are expected to support the measure.
But the pro-RH contingent was just as confident that the bill would pass. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the bill’s principal author, said the defeat of the amendments proposed by anti-RH lawmakers was indicative of the outcome.
But Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles remained unfazed even after the amendments he proposed were rejected by the majority.
“Frankly, it’s a good thing they are rejecting the amendments. It makes it easier for us to reject the bill,” Nograles said after the session adjourned on late Wednesday because there were not enough House members on the floor.
“Even if our amendments are good, they were not accepting them. If that’s the case, then let’s just vote on (the bill),” he said.
Lagman rejected Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado’s proposed amendment seeking to discourage poor women from resorting to abortion.
Mercado wanted the declaration of policy to be amended to state: “The State shall promote openness to life welcoming all children born to married couples…”
“Unintended pregnancies can be referred to adoption centers in the care of private religious organizations or nongovernment organizations. To improve the quality of life of the family, married couples are encouraged to plan and space the children they will have with full support from the State in matters pertaining to reproductive health and responsible parenthood,” Mercado said.
But Lagman rejected the amendment, saying the provision had been “agreed (upon) in serious consultation” during the drafting of the substitute bill. Mercado appealed the decision only to be rejected again by the majority in a voice vote.
Anti-RH congressmen zeroed in on the same provision, but Lagman, who was defending the bill, stood his ground. He was sustained by the majority whenever his rejection of proposed amendments was appealed.
Rodriguez sought to delete the entire provision which states that “the State shall also promote openness to life…,” saying he and his group were uncomfortable with the subsequent clause that said, “…provided that parents bring forth to the world only those children that they can raise in a truly human way.”
Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing wanted to remove the condition, arguing that: “Are we now saying that we will stop (poor couples) from having babies (just because they are poor)?”
Rodriguez said the provision showed that the RH bill “is clearly a population-control measure.”
“There is now here a prior restraint on pregnancy and bringing forth children,” he said, citing the constitutional provision promoting the establishment of a family based on one’s religious conviction.
“Responsible parenthood in the article on family pertains to what the family thinks as responsible parenthood and not the parenthood which the State would like to impose and coerce on its citizens,” he said.