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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Filipino Secularist and Church Critic on Suspicious Provisions in the RH Bill

This article, first published on October 2, 2010, is from the pen of the blogger, journalist and professor who writes under the pseudonym "Patricio Mangubat". Mr. Mangubat is by no means a Catholic writer, he seems to have no problems with artificial contraception, he has been critical of the Church's preaching against the RH Bill and has exhibited some sympathy for Communism / Radical Socialism (among other things) -- see this, for instance. However, unlike many left-leaning and secularist writers in this country, he is not blind to the pitfalls of the RH Bill. Given Mr. Mangubat's stature in Philippine political discourse, it is good that he has written against a few of the questionable provisions of the RH Bill.

House Bill 96 or the Reproductive Health Bill and some suspicious provisions

I read House Bill 96 or "An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population and Development and for other purposes" filed by Congressman Edcel Lagman. The bill's rationale is note-worthy of support. The bill, it seems, is all about informed choice.

What I find rather suspicious is the provision on Section 7 which provides for all accredited health facilities to provide a full range of modern family planning methods. While the bill seeks to promote rights and an enabling environment to exercise those rights, why propose that government buy these "modern family planning methods" only and not include natural family planning methods? This I find a provision also expressed in Section 9 to be that of the benefit of manufacturers of contraceptives. These provisions should not be included in the bill because though government has the right to inform, it should not provide these contraceptives for free.

The government should probably encourage manufacturers of contraceptives to lower their prices instead of the State using its funds to procure all contraceptives or modern family planning methods from these manufacturers. This will be a clear source of an anomaly since as we all know, bidding processes in our country clearly involve graft and corrupt practices.

Section 10 is also highly suspicious. Why distribute contraceptives when it is clear in the bill that its use should only be "when needed" or "when selected or chosen by the couple. The State does not need to distribute these contraceptives to the general population.

These contraceptives should only be given when asked by a couple, or a parent or anybody who wants to plan or rather prevent a pregnancy.

Again, Section 10 is highly suspicious because it caters to the needs of manufacturers of contraceptives.

The contentious Section 13, which mandates the compulsory teaching of sex education from Grades 5 to High school has been revised, finally. This I think, is really important.

Another highly contentious provision though, Section 18, requires that companies with more than 200 workers shall provide reproductive health services to its workers. Or, for companies with lower than 200 workers, coordinate with clinics and hospitals.

Again, the bill's core promise is simply respect the reproductive rights of Filipinos and provide for an enabling environment for its exercise. Why would companies provide for these reproductive health services? If its a right, then those who want to exercise such rights, should know their responsibilities of exercising those rights and one of them is clearly, being financially responsible.

If the State wants to create an enabling environment, let these natural and modern family planning methods be distributed at lesser cost. Meaning, ask manufacturers of contraceptives to lower their prices, instead of the government procuring their products and using public money to buy all of them.

I oppose the use of public money to buy contraceptives.

I oppose using public money to distribute contraceptives. If the bill is really about rights, then, it should likewise recognize that every right has its corresponding responsibility. If the couple or person intends to exercise his reproductive health right, then, he should be aware that the exercise of such rights entails cost, albeit, minimalized.

Why is there no howl about this among RH bill supporters? It is quite evident that we are not being made aware of such provisions in the bill. That, the bill's proponents actually do not want to discuss these provisions simply because these are the provisions which contraceptive lobbyists inserted for their benefit.

Commercial interests are really behind the passage of this bill because this bill will surely jack up the profits of manufacturers of contraceptives.

  • Global sales of contraceptives in 2008 were $9.9 billion and, with 2% growth, sales reached $10.1 billion in 2009. This market is expected to rise at a CAGR of 4.8% and reach $13.5 billion by 2015.
  • The contraceptive market is led by hormonal contraceptives with more than a 78% share. This segment was worth $7.9 billion in 2009 and is expected to increase to $8.2 billion in 2010 and $9.4 billion by 2015, a compound annual growth rate of (CAGR) of 2.8%
  • Barrier contraceptives have a smaller market share than hormonal contraceptives but are expected to grow at a higher rate. This segment was worth $2 billion in 2009 and is expected to be valued at $2.3 billion in 2010 and $3.5 billion in 2015, an 8.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

If the proponent of the bill is really dead serious in his advocacy for reproductive health rights, then, let these provisions be stricken out of the bill immediately.

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