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RH bill author assures freedom of choice

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 05:33 AM August 10, 2012

Senator Pia Cayetano. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The reproductive health (RH) bill offers choices and will not force an individual to use a family planning option that goes against his or her ethical or religious beliefs, according to the bill’s principal sponsor in the Senate.

Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate committee on women, youth and family relations, is apparently fed up with claims  that the RH bill would promote abortion, promiscuity and even teach minors age-inappropriate concepts about sex.

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“Anti-RH advocates often state that people are being forced to adopt a certain type of family planning method. Or that health care providers will be forced to recommend certain kinds,” Cayetano noted in her blog after Senate leaders said they would reopen the period of interpellation on the contentious measure.

Attention has again been focused on the bill after Catholic leaders led a protest rally against the measure last Saturday during which prelates warned of fatal consequences if it were approved.

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Alarm bells

Alarm bells rang louder when the House of Representatives ended its period of interpellation on the bill last Monday, a day ahead of schedule.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for instance, said they would reopen the interpellation on the bill so they could ask Cayetano more questions.

The Senate ended the interpellation of the bill last May during which senators spent countless session hours fielding questions and answers about it.

Cayetano fears the renewed campaign against the RH bill could derail what the Senate has achieved so far.

The senator insisted that the bill had gone through the process. “We had hearings, then we made our committee report… In fact, it took almost a year before the RH bill hurdled the interpellation period at the Senate,” she said.

“Every provision was explained, rehashed and clarified until it was blue in the face. I am not exaggerating,” she said.

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All provisions explained

She now fears that all gains made by the Senate might be “overlooked, sometimes even abandoned altogether by those who mean to distort the meaning and purpose of the bill.”

Cayetano reiterated the following points in her blog posted on August 4:

•The RH bill respects the religious convictions and cultural beliefs of all.

“Those who do not want to use contraceptives are not being forced to. Each person is at liberty to decide for his or herself,” she said.

•That RH education would be age- and development-appropriate. The bill “will not teach a 10-year-old how to use condoms.”

Rather, it will ensure that children in school are provided “age-appropriate” sex education, including proper names for body parts and understanding the biological function of their bodies “such that they know that babies grow in mommy’s tummy and do not come out of bamboo trees,” she explained.

Lack of awareness

Cayetano said this lack of awareness could be partly responsible for the Philippines having the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Southeast Asia and cases of young children being sexually abused, sometimes by members of their own family.

•That the RH bill promotes both natural and artificial methods.

“Again, there is so much disinformation spreading that only artificial family planning shall be promoted under the RH bill. This is false,” she said.

•That contraceptives are safe and effective family planning tools.

“Like any medicine or medical device, all contraceptives shall be approved by a government authority, the Food and Drugs Administration. And like medicines, there will be respect for choices. Couples must decide what is best for them with the advice of their health care provider,” Cayetano said.

•That the RH bill will not indiscriminately distribute condoms to all.

Cayetano said the measure is much more than nationwide condom distribution. Providing mobile vehicles that would provide health care services especially in far-flung areas where health care is inaccessible is an urgent component of the measure, she said.

“The mobile health care unit is not a contraceptive ice cream truck,” the senator said.

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TAGS: Congress, Legislation, Pia Cayetano, Politics, Population, RH bill, Social Issues
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