Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughts on the Reproductive Health Bill

The Reproductive Health Bill has, for the longest time, been a subject of intense debate, one that involves layers of issues ranging from economics, politics, ethics, morality, and religion. And for something as controversial, intelligent and informed discussion is always welcome.

I'm glad I got to watch RH Bill: The Grand Debate. I thought GMA News TV did a great job with the show. Its format was well-formulated; its execution was well-organized. The debate was divided into three major areas: the RH Bill with regards to poverty, to morality, and to women. Key personalities and speakers were invited, many of whom engaged the audience on an intellectual level, not relying on theatrics to sway popular opinion, as most televised debates are wont to do. A recording of the entire episode is posted online.

I must admit, though, that I watched the show because I was particularly interested in the key arguments of the group against the passage of the bill in Congress. I've already heard the pro-RH arguments in school—the UP College of Medicine is a staunch RH Bill supporter—so I was looking forward to hearing from the other side. I tried to keep an open mind.

I don't intend to summarize all the arguments presented but I'd like to note a few things that were mentioned about contraceptives which undoubtedly became the central argument of the night.

Bishop Bacani, who spoke for the anti-RH stand, claimed that contraceptive pills are immoral because they are abortifacients. A UP professor further argued that these pills have side effects, which include an increased risk for cancer as well as adverse drug reactions.

These arguments made me rethink what were taught to us in med school.

We were taught in med school that oral contraceptive pills—at least those prescribed by physicians—are not abortifacients, in the sense that they simply hinder the process of fertilization, not kill the human embryo. These pills influence a woman's hormonal status such that her reproductive tract is rendered unfavorable for the eventual meeting of the sperm and egg. Condoms, too, prevent the introduction of the sperm to the female reproductive tract, decreasing the chances of fertilization from occurring.

We were also taught that all drugs—even paracetamol, as a medical doctor from the pro-RH side claimed—have side effects. But paracetamol, an over-the-counter pill, has not been pulled out of the market simply because minority of the population, say, may be allergic to it. It's true, too, that studies have shown that oral contraceptive pills may increase the risk of certain cancers, but come to think of it: the WHO and key medical organizations still recommend their use. The use of these pills then does more good than harm. That is the current scientific consensus. If life begins at fertilization, then artificial family planning methods—which include pills and condoms—should be allowed since they don't abort any formed fetus.

To pass or not to pass
Given all the arguments presented, should we pass the RH Bill?

Representative Garin, a pro-RH lawmaker, convinced me when she said she believed that the RH Bill is what the country precisely needs. She cited that an ever-increasing population spreads thin the government spending allotted for each citizen. Her core argument was that the empowerment and protection of women is central to the poverty solution. She appealed both to scientific inquiry and common sense, citing recent studies and giving relevant illustrations. According to her, poverty is caused, among other things, by a rapidly growing population, which, if left unchecked, will deplete this country's resources. In a given family, the more mouths to feed, the harder. Women must be educated, protected, and given access to contraceptives to help them plan their families. They will never be forced to plan their families, but if they decide to do so, the state will help them.

Over the Web
Over the past few weeks, I've chanced upon blogs, both pro- and anti-RH, bearing commentaries that border on the preposterous and irrelevant. A debate is not helpful if it is not informed. Read the bill in its entirety, understand the provisions therein, and if you feel like marching into the streets, feel free to do so. Finally, voice your opinions with kindness. A friend, who may not agree with my opinion, wrote these wise words,
Whether the RH bill gets passed or not, we'll still have to LIVE with each other. So can't we keep discussing but keep the snide remarks and the condescension and the name-calling to a minimum? You can win the argument but lose the person, and is that honestly what you really want?


Blogger Katrina Magallanes said...

nice thoughts lance. i myself am pro-RH bill regardless of what CBCP says about it. we had a forum about this in school last sem and it turns out that not all priests are against the RH Bill. Fr. Ranhilio Aquino,dean of san beda law school is all-out pro as well.

Sat May 28, 03:24:00 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People who think delve deep into the essence of RH bill can really say that it must be passed. I am pro RH!

Thu Jun 09, 11:03:00 AM GMT+8  

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