Culture Wars: After a Decade of Debate, the Philippines Passes Reproductive Health Bill

Filipino legislators on Monday approved a law that will allow the government to provide basic funding for sex education and contraceptives.

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TED ALJIBE / AFP / GETTY

Catholic nuns join some 7,000 protesters during an anti–Reproductive Health Bill rally in Manila on Aug. 4, 2012

Change, at last. After a deeply divisive, decadelong battle, the Philippines’ legislature on Monday approved a landmark piece of legislation that will allow the government to provide basic funding for sex education and contraceptives. The Reproductive Health Bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, was introduced more than 10 years ago, but languished in the legislature because of strong opposition from the Catholic Church and its allies in government.

Only five years ago, many thought the bill would never pass, that the country was too divided, that the church was too strong. But supporters fought on and found an ally in President Aquino, who took office in 2010. “The Reproductive Health Bill will have profound implications for improving the health and lives of women throughout the country,” wrote Human Rights Watch’s Carlos Conde in a statement. “The Aquino administration should be credited for having the political will to muster support for the bill in Congress despite the threat of a political backlash.”

The Philippines, a majority Catholic nation of 96 million, has long been an outlier in terms of reproductive rights. Over the past 20 years, while most of Asia — and indeed, much of the world — embraced voluntary family planning, the country cracked down on contraception. Though poll data suggest the majority of Filipinos believe in birth control, the country’s Catholic Church contends that the use of modern methods of contraception, such as condoms and birth-control pills, is an affront to God’s will and a threat to public health. Likening condoms to abortion, they have vigorously opposed any attempt to broaden reproductive rights. In a 2008 interview, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, a vocal anticontraception campaigner, told me that women ought to avoid sexual intercourse on all but their least fertile days. Family-planning advocates, he said, were merely “propagandists of a culture of death.”

(MORE: The Philippines’ Birth-Control Battle)

Over the years, that message moved from the pulpit to the political sphere, spawning some of the world’s most restrictive laws on birth control and abortion. In year 2000, for instance, a mayoral edict saw birth control effectively banned from Manila’s public clinics, making condoms the purview of the city’s moneyed classes. The ban coincided with a Bush-era move to cut funding to overseas organizations focused on family planning, drastically cutting the availability of affordable contraceptives. In Manila, those who could afford it bought birth control at private clinics; many poor women went without. It is not uncommon to meet women in Manila who say they hoped to have two children, but because of a lack of affordable family planning, now have 6, or 8, or 10. A 25-year-old woman named Sheryl told me in 2008 that she wanted two kids, but had five. Three survived infancy in Manila’s slums.

Indeed, the Philippines is a case study in how restricting reproductive rights hurts public health. The country’s decades-long contraception crackdown has stigmatized safer sex practices, heightening the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and leading to millions of unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancies. Decades worth of research shows that nutrition, health and educational opportunities drop when a family outgrows its means. Yet the U.N. Population Fund estimates that half of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the country each year are unintended. A third of these pregnancies are aborted, often in unsafe conditions. (The Philippines has a blanket ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life. The criminalization of abortion often forces women to turn to back-alley abortionists.) A 2010 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York City, estimated that in 2008 alone, 90,000 Filipino women sought medical treatment for complications from abortion and about a thousand died.

(MORE: When a Country Cracks Down on Contraception: Grim Lessons from the Philippines)

The Reproductive Health Bill is no panacea. It does not address the country’s abortion laws. Also, the bill alone is not enough to guarantee reproductive justice. Attitudes must change too. As long as there is stigma surrounding the use of contraception, people are at risk. The bill’s detractors, including the architect of the Manila contraceptives ban, former mayor Lito Atienza, have vowed to fight the legislation and may petition the Supreme Court to declare the bill unconstitutional. Others believe the country is ready for change. “The Catholic Church has steadfastly opposed the RH bill for 13 years,” Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago told the Associated Press. “But I humbly submit that there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” No less than the lives of Filipinos are at stake.
36 comments
MarkNiñoJavier
MarkNiñoJavier

The RH law is the very immoral and very unrespectful to God law. It simply promotes that sex is just a game of two people. It reflects how the government leads us to vanity.


Coordinator:

Mark Niño Javier

http://ourhappyschool.com/religion

DenisChanco
DenisChanco

i was answering mr xellsalazars comment

DenisChanco
DenisChanco

IF YOU WERE SMART ENOUGH--YOU WOULD KNOW THAT THE COUNTRY CANNOT SUPPORT 100 MILLION PEOPLE--YOU HAVE BEEN TO THE SLUMS YOU SAID, WHY NOT APPLY WHAT YOU SEE. A FATHER WHO CAN BARELY MAKE MONEY TO PROVIDE AND FEED HIS 10 KIDS...GET IT? ITS THAT SIMPLE--YOU LIVE IN A TINY ISLAND THAT SHOULD ONLY BE A 60 - 70 MILLION. --WHERE DO YOU THINK THE GOVERNMENT IS GOIN TO GET THE MONEY?-SANTA CLAUSE?..SINCE WHEN HAS IT BEEN A GOOD THING-HAVING KIDS YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO TAKE CARE OF?--IN THE WEST --YOU GET ARRESTED FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO PROVIDE FOR YOUR KIDS--THEY GET TAKEN AWAY BY THE STATE--SO MY ADVICE --GET MORE EDUCATION AND TRAVEL TO WELL DEVELOPED COUNTRIES...THEN YOU WILL SEE WHAT LIVING REALLY MEANS..

XellSalazarGubot
XellSalazarGubot

The Philippines is not a  western country, only heavily westernized. A lot of people in the Philippines think that adapting another bill that originated in the west will solve our country's problem? Are they serious?  They haven't walked a mile in the shoes of the people living in the slums with some even bearing inhumane conditions because they have nowhere else to go or suffering from malnutrition because of lack of food, children growing up not properly educated because the school's lack rooms and there aren't enough teaching materials in them to support all the students. I have worked with outreach programs and have done community service a few dozen times to know that contraceptives and condoms are not what a lot of my less fortunate countrymen need. What we in the Philippines need are free and proper health care, proper education and better educational facilities, and Housing and Infrastructure improvements. But what does our government give us? Another band-aid solution which really doesn't help the stature of the Philippines one bit. The RH Bill only serves to line up more corrupt government officials pockets with taxpayer money and that is surely what's gonna happen. 13.7 Billion Pesos going down the drain because of greed and corruption, way to waste a lot of funds which could have been better spent on improving the lives of Filipinos.

noel
noel

nangyari po iyan upang mahayag kung sino ang panig sa katotohanan at sa kasinungalingan. nanalo ang mga pro-rh bill hindi dhil sa tama sila kundi ipinapakita lang iyan kung sino ang mga duwag at hindi naninindigan sa katotohanan. at kaya sila nanalo dahil sa kapangyarihan ng pera at hindi ng kunsensya. ipinapakita rin iyan kung anong uri ng mga pinuno at mga government officials meron ang pilipinas -- mga duwag at mga mukhang pera. nanalo rin ang mga pro-rh bill sapagkat inamin ni pia cayetano na tinawagan nila ang mga anti-rh bill law makers na mag-absent na lang sa araw ng botohan. hindi ba isang uri ng kasamaan iyang ginagawa nila? akala ko ba demokrasya ang isinisigaw nila, bakit nila ngayon sinasaklawan ang kalayaang pumili ng isang tao? bakit binabantaan ng administrasyon ni pnoy ang mga congressmen na parurusahan ang mga bumoto at muling boboto ng "no" sa rh bill? akala ko ba konsyensya at kalayaan? sila mismo hindi pinangangatawan ang mga sinasabi nila sapagkat mga mandaraya sila at pawang mga sinungaling. mga sumumpa sa Diyos at sa mga mamamayan pero mapapait at mga lason na gamot ang ipinaiinom sa bayan. Revelation 10:5-11 5 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! 7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” 8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

IceQueen1013
IceQueen1013

I'm sorry but I just can't sympathize with the Church on this issue. And for those who don't know, these priests, brothers and sisters are not as religious as they appear to be. They do not often practice what they preach. I know this for a fact because for 20 years I have interacted with them, in elementary, high school, college and even now at work. They are just as mukhang-pera as our politikos. So yeah, I no longer respect them as much as I used to.

Jumblebee
Jumblebee

I agree with that our country must push for the Bill, but I am highly disappointed with how people are committing ad hominem against the Church, just because they stand against it. I know that some would argue that the Church has meddled in state affairs in the previous centuries, but I'd like to believe that the Church has taught many Christians, particularly Catholics, to be better human beings.

Do not pray that RH bill's enactment would be a sign of the Church's diminishing power. The anti-RH group is not wholly unsensible about this issue. They have raised very salient points that I know only we, the youth, will be able to witness when we its effects on the future generations. It will be up to us, to our generation, to be steadfast in teaching our very own children the most important lesson about sexual relations: that it is an act of love, between husband and wife (or life partner....but this is probably for another article)--and nothing less. After the bill's passage, the work will not even be half done yet. We, as citizens and members of our respective religious institutions, must work together to impart and live out the values we possess so our future generations will not fall into promiscuity, etc.

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

CBCP BISHOPS KATOLIBAN YES TO LIFE REPRODUCTION IS MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES''

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

CBCP BISHOPS KATOLIBAN AND CARNIVAL TAGLE EXTREMIST TERRORIST!!!

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

dapat noon pa yan napasa R.H BILL na yan ginagawa ng mga obispo dinadaan nila sa padasal at himala ang mga batang hubo! sa kalsada at ang mga maliliit na bata nag kakalkal ng basura sinabi naman ni cristo pangalagaan mo pinararami mo di yung parami ka ng parami pag pag na kinakain mo SATANAS lang ang ayaw sa R.H BILL dahil ito paraan ni cristo para mapangalagaan ang mahihirap!! at mabigyan ng tama kalinga mga anak nila kung ilan ang kaya nilang pakainin!!

jaaaaaaaaaaaaake
jaaaaaaaaaaaaake

And the leftists shriek in glee, they get to turn another good Catholic society into a pagan wasteland of STDs, sexual abuse, child neglect, and every other pathetic secular evil, I mean tradition..

אדריאןנאה
אדריאןנאה

IT'S OK FOR P-NOY TO BE EXCOMMUNICATED BY CBCP FOR PASSING RH BILL. THIS IS WHAT WE REALLY NEED. A GOVERNMENT & A PRESIDENT WHO HAS A POLITICAL WILL. NOT A PUPPET OF THE CHURCH. \m/

ROHorg
ROHorg

After 15 years, it finally passed and the women of the Philippines are rejoicing! It will take time to fully implement, but it is a massive step in the right direction for the country. 

bookworm12
bookworm12

@DenisChanco "Get more education and travel to well developed countries?" And with what money would they be able to afford to travel abroad? A father who can't afford to feed his children is going to spent what little money he has traveling? Be realistic. And did you read the entire article? I don't think you did, because the women they interviewed stated that they only wanted two kids and ended with many more. Guess why? Lack of access to free or cheap birth control. And guess what? In some countries, there simply isn't enough room or money to accommodate all the students, so there goes that solution regarding education. I recommend YOU travel and see the struggles some people face everyday instead of saying stupid suggestions.

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

TUTA KA NI DAMASO CBCP BISHOPS EXTREMIST TERRORIST!!

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

SI BISHOPS ANG PINAKAMASAMANG LINALANG D2 SA PILIPINAS PAG MASDAN MO ANG PROPAGANDA MO DI NA KAMAMATAY ANG PILLS AT CONDOM LAHAT YAN AY MEDICAL SCIENCE RECOMENDED NG MGA DOCTOR BRAIN WASH KA NA NAMAN NI SATANAS CARNIVAL TAGLE DAMASO!!

philip.hernaez
philip.hernaez

@noel mg hayop tlg sila...kung malinins lang tlg sana ng  naging proseso eh wala n sana isyu...tapos n sana ang usapin.

TommyC
TommyC

@JumblebeeThe CBCP's behavior with regards to the bill has been absolutely deplorable. They have repeatedly spread falsehoods about the bill (such as the lie that it legalizes abortion: it never has).

 The Constitution dictates Free Speech, so I'm perfectly fine with their voicing their opposition to the Bill.  I do draw the line, however, at their consistent willingness to flat out lie and deceive.  Frankly, their blatant politicking and their willingness to prostitute themselves out to anyone willing to oppose the bill (hello, GMA) have been deplorable as well, and have tarnished their reputation. 

 I am a Catholic, but I certainly hope this leads to a decrease in Church influence.  Decisions in this country need to be made based off what is best for the PEOPLE, not what the Church wants.

Juan.Rafael
Juan.Rafael

@EdgardoMendoza ANG TIGAS NMN NG PGMUMUKHA NG EDGARDONG ITO QNG MKAPAGSALITA SA KAPWA NYA GANUN NA LAMANG OBVIOUSLY WLANG ARAL! YEAH! NPKAUNEDUCATED MO DUDE! MAS MALINIS PA SAU ANG TAONG HINAHAMAK MO KAMPON KA NG DYABLO!

philip.hernaez
philip.hernaez

@EdgardoMendoza  kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap--yan ang palataporma ni noynoy noong araw..ang mga condoms at pills n pangako ng REH Bill..cgurado di makakarating yan sa mga mahihirap bagkus nanakawin n ng mga buwaya ang mga pondo...

ldandched
ldandched

@jaaaaaaaaaaaaake Shut up you fool. We ARE in a wasteland of STDs, sexual abuse and child neglect. Tell your wonderful Catholic Church to null the tuition fees of all their expensive schools for the poor families who can't afford to send their children to school. Also, they must open all Churches to the orphans roaming our streets. ALL orphans must be accepted. If they can't do that, they have no right to stop the Filipinos from having the RH Bill. Open your eyes. Your ignorance is infuriating.

TommyC
TommyC

@jaaaaaaaaaaaaake 

Manila's slums are ALREADY a wasteland of STDs, sexual abuse and child neglect.  Every legitimate economic analysis of this indicates that the RH Bill will improve things.

Please do not bring your moronic Tea Party garbage to issues you have absolutely no idea about.

Piacevole
Piacevole

At some point in the future, this position on contraception by the Catholic church is going to look like their resistance to the heliocentric reality of the solar system: wrong, unrepresentative of reality, and ultimately useless.  People will be amazed that an organization resisted a perfectly sensible practice.

azzkad101
azzkad101

@jaaaaaaaaaaaaake You are a moron. The Philippines already has a high rate of STD cases, there is already widespread child neglect because of extreme poverty, and Catholicism has already proven itself as an outdated dictatorial institution who wants to run the country the way it wants to...

jaaaaaaaaaaaaake
jaaaaaaaaaaaaake

@אדריאןנאה 

Yes, now you're a puppet of "world health organizations" that are going to ruin your society. Now on top of poverty, you're going to have an STD epidemic... FORWARD!!

jaaaaaaaaaaaaake
jaaaaaaaaaaaaake

@ROHorg  Oh yea they're rejoicing that they can be as miserable and worthless as American and European women now! (Be careful Phillipines, you're going to start committing population suicide like the United States now!)

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

SATANAS CARNIVAL TAGLE DAMASO MAYOR LITO ATIENZA PROLIFE ABORZIONIST TYPE MO NALANG SA YOUTUBE YAN ANG KAMPON NG DEMONYO AT ANG MGA OBISPO MAHIHILIG SA LUXURY CAR MAHILIG KAYO MAG SALITA BAKIT DI NINYO IPAMAHAGI ANG LUPAIN NG VATICAN 17 BILLON NINYO PERA!! KUNG SA DIYOS TALAGA KAYO STUPID IKAW DYABLO!

EdgardoMendoza
EdgardoMendoza

AKO SIGURADO MAKAKARATING YAN WAG LANG HAHARANGIN NI MAYOR LITO  ATIENZA ABORTIONIST AT NG SATANAS CARNIVAL TAGLE DAMASO!! LAGI NILANG DAHILAN CURRUPTION LAHAT BANSA SA BUONG MUNDO MAY CURRUPT SA PILIPINAS NO1 NA SINUNGALING BISHOPS DI NAG BABAYAD NG BUWIS GOBYERNO  17BILLION ANG PERA SA MANING AT SA ALAK MAG BIGAY NAMAN KAYO SA MGA BATANG HUBO!!

bookworm12
bookworm12

@jaaaaaaaaaaaaake @ROHorg And how exactly are these women going to be miserable? If by being miserable means asking for and obtaining a good education, a chance to rise from the slums while improving one's health and well being then you most definitely do not know what miserable and worthless means.

And are American and European women now worthless because they can be educated women who won't always stay home and wait for their husbands to come home with the money? Not to be rude here but, ITS THE 21st century!  WAKE  UP! That way of thinking is changing. Guess what? Women don't have to stay home anymore, they be independent, and not have to rely on stupid people like you.

DenisChanco
DenisChanco

@jaaaaaaaaaaaaake @ROHorg 

EVERYBODY RUN AND HIDE--BACK TO YOUR CAVES--THERE IS GOIN TO BE AN EPIDEMIC, FILIPINO WOMEN ARE GOIN TO BE BAD---LETS SPREAD ALL THE FEAR AND PARANOIA--LETS ALL BE STUPID AND UNEDUCATED...LIKE JAAAAA

bromo
bromo

@EdgardoMendoza  kung makapagsalita ka para kang sino,. tignan mo kaya mukha mo sa salamin, mas mukha ka pang dyablo kaysa kay satanas a.. kilala mo na ba yang sinasabi mong carnival tagle? nakausap mo na siya?, ang mga demonyo galit sa mga mababait na tao. lol