If This Bill Could Talk

by Beth Angsioco

I am the Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill. My six parent bills gave birth to me after the House of Representatives’ committee on population gave me its seal of approval. This is the 16th year of my family’s struggle to pass Congress and I have become quite controversial though not by design. What we really want is to help address the Filipino people’s needs, especially those of women in poverty.

Soon, I will be the subject of Plenary debates. But before that, I first want to be introduced to people who want to know me. Let me tell you what I offer and what I can do if I become a law.

I am pro-life.

ALL my provisions are about upholding your right to life. I am particularly protective of the poor and marginalized. I come with services that will address reproductive health-related diseases and make pregnancies and childbirth safe. These include:

Section 5- Training of midwives for skilled attendance which will result in better care for women who deliver babies at home or in health centers;

Section 6- Emergency obstetric care which are crucial life-saving services that will attend to childbirth complications;

Section 8- Maternal and newborn health care in crisis situations which mandates government to provide maternal, neonatal and other RH services even in temporary shelters, evacuation centers, and refugee camps;

Section 14- Benefits of serious and life-threatening RH conditions which tells PhilHealth to provide maximum benefits in cases of HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, obstetric complications, etc.;

Section 15- Mobile health care service which will bring RH and other health services to our people especially to those of you who are in hard-to-reach areas; and

Section 19- Capability building of barangay health workers so they can help even in RH-related matters. This provision recognizes the reality that these workers are among the first who assist you in times of problems.

I want to make these important services accessible because these can help in keeping our people healthy and address the causes of deaths of mothers. The reality is women die from preventable and curable pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. I want to, and I can help save lives.

I am pro-choice.

You all have the right to make informed decisions, to choose from among options that should be available to you. Those who attack me say that I will coerce you into doing things that you do not want. They cannot be more wrong. Let me show you why.

I have the following provisions that will enable you to decide freely and intelligently, and actually put these decisions into action:

Section 7- Access to family planning which provides for the availability of ALL modern methods, including Natural Family Planning. This will ensure that you will have a full range of options to choose from;

Section 16- Mandatory Age-Appropriate RH and Sexuality Education. This provision of mine will educate our young people in an age-appropriate manner on RH-related matters including: physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; fertility awareness; self-protection against discrimination, violence and abuse; STI, HIV and AIDS; and FP.

Moreover, this provision will help develop life-skills such as responsible decision-making among our young people as they learn values formation; children’s and women’s rights; responsible relationship; gender and development; and responsible parenthood;

Section 24- Right to RH care information which ensures that you will be provided with comprehensive and non-fraudulent information about available RH care and services; and

Section 28- Prohibited acts. Because I protect your right to know your options and freely make decisions, I prohibit: healthcare providers from withholding or restricting dissemination of information or providing incorrect information on RH programs and services; public officials from restricting the delivery of RH services, or coercing anyone to use such services; and employers from requiring employees to use or not use any FP method.

You see, there is nothing in me that coerces anyone. All I will do is make RH information and services available to you should YOU DECIDE to use them.

I am pro-poor.

I admit I have a bias for those in poverty. After all, those with money can readily pay for whatever service or supply they need. I am alarmed that many who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications are poor women. Thus, besides the above-mentioned provisions that will benefit our poor citizens, I offer a lot more including:

Section 12- Integration of family planning and responsible parenthood component in anti-poverty programs. Because of the expressed high unmet need for FP among the poor, I mandate government to include FP in its multi-dimensional approach against poverty.

Section 13- Roles of local government in FP programs is my provision ensuring that LGUs will prioritize the poor in terms of delivery of FP services.

Section 21- Employers’ responsibilities. This provision strengthens the Labor Code’s policy requiring big companies to provide RH services to employees. Smaller ones on the other hand, are asked to enter into partnerships with healthcare providers so they are able to do the same.

Section 22- Pro-bono services to indigent women. I ask RH care providers to give 48 hours of free service to indigent patients to further increase the poor’s access to RH programs.

Section 23- Sexual and RH programs for persons with disabilities (PWDs). Because RH is a right, PWDs will not be discriminated against in terms of the enjoyment of this right. Through this provision, I am mandating government to remove existing barriers to PWDs’ access to RH services.

I am pro-life, pro-choice, and pro-poor. These are what I stand for. All I want is to address people’s RH needs and prevent women from dying from preventable and curable causes. “No woman should die in giving life,” is a line I take seriously.

I hope that after telling you these, I will be better understood. I am tired of being lied about. Support me and I will serve well. To members of Congress: Vote for me, I am the reproductive health bill.

If these bills could talk is republished here with permission from Ms. Angsioco

Guest Writer