House Bill 4110 – Reproductive Health Care Act

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The controversial House Bill (HB) 4110 raced its way to the topand became one of the most reported health issues for the 3rd quarter of the year.

HB 4110, also known as Reproductive Health Care Act and sponsored by four women members of Congress, instantly earned the ire of various conservative groups since it hit the news. The controversy started when the opposing groups since it hit the news. The controversy started when the opposing groups were allegedly given an entirely different version from what the proponents were holding. Thus, both camps spoke from different perspectives and not surprisingly did not seem to be talking about the same bill.

These conservative groups found mouthpieces in opinion writers who shared the same conventional thoughts with them. However, the bill did not get purely negative media coverage, as there were also columnists who wrote positively about it.

A priest columnist, Fr. Bel San Luis, of the Manila Bulletin called the bill many names in his column, “Anti-Child” because it allows girls as young as 13 to exercise their reproductive rights which means the right to use contraceptive. “Anti-Parent” because when a 13 year-old girl wants to engage in sex and use contraceptives, the parents have no right to say no as it will violate the child’s reproductive rights. Anti-Social because it will destroy society by destroying the morality of our women. (Manila Bulletin, August 28)

Ms. Domini Torrevillas of Philippine Star, on the other hand, wrote why she supports the bill. She explained the reproductive health realities of Filipino women. She pointed out that the bill pays special attention to women and girl-children as reproductive health is recognized as a fundamental aspect of their well being. She clarified that the bill recognizes that the Constitution does not allow abortion as a family planning method, but it mandates that women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. She explained that the bill calls for the creation of comprehensive, age-specific health programs and that special attention is given to teenagers to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy and other adolescent reproductive health problems. (Philippine Star, August 29)

One Manila Times editorial lashed out at the misinformation campaign those anti-HB 4110 advocates are mounting. It also lambasted opinion writers who joined the campaign against the bill without having read it yet. (Manila Times, August 31)

The Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. (ALFI) told the Philippine Star that the character of the bill is anti-life and anti-family and that they expect that the number of teen-age abortions will be its barometer for success. They cited that in all international conferences, the term reproductive in reference to health or rights no longer means what any dictionary states but the impending of the natural reproductive process of conception and birth. (Philippine Star, August 31)

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines, meanwhile, told the same paper “the bill violates respect for the right to life. The Council said that HB 4110 seeks to introduce the legalization of abortion in the country and added that it is not merely unconstitutional but immoral as well”. (Philippine Star, September 4)

Not to be outdone, the highest Catholic authority in the land, Manila Archbishop Cardinal Sin, stressed the pro-life commitment of the church” when he delivered a message during the feast of St. Mary in September 8. (Malaya, September 8)

The Cardinal, however, did not stop there. Apart from calling the bill unconstitutional because he believes that it upholds abortion, Sin also warned politicians against passing the bill or he will call on the people not to vote for legislators who will support HB 4110. However, opinion writer Jesus Sison asked in his column, can the Church convince a majority of voters when its political clout is still a big question mark? (Malaya, September 14)

In a counterbalance effort, Rina Jimenez-David of the PDI explained in her column what the bill is trying to advocate. She noted that although the bill provides for programs responding to the reproductive health needs of young people and prevent abortions and render care for women suffering from post-abortions, it is not the same as saying 13 year-olds should be given the right to undergo abortion. She said that the bill seeks to provide a guarantee to all people of reproductive age and beyond access to information, education and safe, affordable and quality reproductive health care services. (PDI, September 14)

After the threat of the Church to revoke political support to lawmakers who will support HB 4110, a number of politicians reportedly withdraw authorship of the said bill. Only four out of the six original authors from the Congress remained after Representatives Fuentebella and Marañon, Jr. withdrew. Senator Rodolfo Biazon, author of the parallel Senate Bill 2325, is reportedly having a hard time looking for co-authors in the upper chamber. (PDI, September 24)

Meanwhile, Women’s Legal, Education Advocacy and Defense Foundation, Inc. (WomenLead) is pushing for the passage of the bill as its leadership noted that 4,000 out of 2.6 million women who get pregnant yearly die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortions. WomenLead said that 53% of said pregnancies are unintended, forced and unwanted; about 400,000 are aborted through unsafe means resulting in 80,000 women suffering post-abortion complications annually. (People’s Journal, September 30)

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