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Reproductive Health Bill: Real Meat or Myth

Manila streets are no stranger to children taking risks to sell sampaguita strings, cigarettes, candies, and rags. Oh yes, we are no stranger to stories they share while they try to earn a living for their family. I’ve had enough of people gushing, “How could their mother bear the sight of their kids out on the streets racing with cars?”

If only these people could visit these kids back home, I bet they won’t bear the sight of a mother lying sick on the bed, attending to a couple of kids at the same time. They would have even forgotten asking for the whereabouts of the father who happens to be working his tail off earning minimum wage in a construction site. Unfortunately, it is the painful picture confronting the daily lives of street children.

While we can hardly point fingers to anyone, legislators are likely to blame it against glaring reproduction rate hence the introduction of the Reproductive Health Bill. Nonetheless, they didn’t cast the stone to mothers who might have not pondered on the aftermath of having a big family. Who could blame poor mothers anyway, when spending for contraceptives is the last thing they would ever think of?

“Time and again, Filipino women across all socioeconomic classes have expressed their desire for fewer children. But many, particularly the poor and the less educated among them, have more children than they want and are unable to achieve their desired  number of children. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of Filipinos have affirmed the importance of the ability to plan one’s family or control one’s fertility, and believe that rapid population growth impedes the country’s development.” (“Population and Poverty: The Real Score,” Balisacan et al. 2004. Retrieved from

With the Reproductive Health Bill, women can have free access to an array of birth control methods that may vary from natural to artificial ones. The government shall provide access not only to contraceptives, but also to reproductive health care information through rural health units. This way, women can better carry out their plans as to the number of children they wish to bear.

Odds, say what?

The Reproductive Health Bill might spell out simple reproductive health policy – informed choice – but the odds contend that the simplicity is worth the scrutiny. I bet you have attended the mass on Sunday with your parish priest talking about contraceptives, abortion, and ultimately sin. Some might say that Catholic conservatives are likely paranoid when the status quo gets disturbed, however, is it really simple paranoia?

For a long time, that’s the period from the term of former Presidents Cory Aquino (1986) to Gloria Arroyo (2010), reproductive health policy has inclined toward natural family planning. Of course, it is noteworthy that these two powerful and intellectual women shared the same sentiment particularly on the promotion of natural birth control methods. Who knows, they might have just imbibed the old spirit of the cliché, “a mother knows best” (the nation’s mother for that matter). Be that as it may, Senators Pia Cayetano and Miriam Defensor Santiago might also know what’s best with their own versions of the RH Bill.

So, you might have not been surprised on the stand taken by the former lady presidents, especially with their strong affiliation with the Church. What’s wrong with such an affiliation with the religious community? For all we know, they might have compared notes on the downside of contraceptive use.

Roman Catholic Church has been a conservative institution, but absolutely not a close-minded one. After all, the support for natural reproductive control goes beyond moral and spiritual norms promoted by religion. Various scientific studies asserted that contraceptives have got unlikely side effects not only to the well-being of the unborn, but also to the health and welfare of the mother.

Dr. Colliton (2002) quoted Dr. Murphy Goodwin in saying that, “I believe (1) that it is most likely that the total number of excess fetal losses (abortions) due to the combined pill is in the range of several hundred thousand, substantially less than the number of elective abortions annually and (2) the fact that this is not the intended effect of the pill in most cases and that the effect in any one circumstance is unknowable makes the ethical issues much more complex than those surrounding elective abortion.” (“The Birth Control Pill: Abortifacient and Contraceptive,” Colliton, William. Jr., M.D. (2002). Retrieved from

Abortifacient effect of contraceptives likely manifests when birth control measures fail to restrain ovulation and sperm transport. Upon failure to inhibit these activities, fertilization occurs. That leaves contraception its last resort – that is to inhibit the fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterus by creating a hostile endometrium. Sad to say, preventing such an implantation may constitute abortion since life begins as soon as the egg has been fertilized.

Harvard School of Public Health, in a fact sheet entitled “Cancer: Breast Cancer,” nonetheless contended that the use of birth control pills likely elevate the risks of developing breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke; and the same publication also reported that fewer child birth increases the risks of breast cancer brought about by poor hormone levels and weak breast tissues – which happen to be the drawbacks of getting pregnant less often.

For all it’s worth

Whether you wish to go all the way with the RH Bill, or stick with natural family planning, you should be able to take responsibility for the consequences of your option. Not all huge families are struggling financially, and not all small families are well-off. Besides, responsible parenthood is all that matters at the end of the day.

As much as I hope that women won’t end up helplessly weeping to see their little ones working on the streets, I hope that they won’t go through the torment of knowing they’ve compromised lives of the unborn right after fertilization, most importantly when they’re well aware that they would have given birth to children who won’t mind sweeping the streets only to get a life for themselves and for the family.

Should the RH Bill prosper into a law, my only prayer is that it won’t stray from its concept of informed reproductive choice. Women should be aware not only of the benefits brought about by various birth control methods, but also their respective side effects and anti-fertility mechanisms. Otherwise, women shall only be dragged into a moral dilemma whether or not they’ve forsaken their bodies and their seeds.