1. The Reproductive Health Bill undermines the human rights it seeks to advance.
The government cannot, on the one hand, guarantee the “universal basic human right to reproductive health” with its concomitant “right to make free and informed decisions,” and on the other hand advocate a policy that tells parents—especially women—what their choices should be. Such an approach is an unjustifiable affront to the dignity and capacity of the poor.
The bill also claims to give equal importance to natural and artificial methods of family planning. This claim does not hold. While mention is given to natural methods of family planning, no funding is provided for the promotion of these methods in the budgetary provisions of the bill. Natural methods rely on investments in the education of women and increased knowledge, in order to enable women to manage their health, and make informed decisions. Budgetary allocations must be inserted to the bill to provide funding for the training of knowledge-based reproductive health care providers, and the promotion of necessary information to women in order to enable informed choice.
Improved access to basic health care, nutrition, medicines and technology are the additional means by which maternal mortality and morbidity can be reduced and eliminated.
The mandate of the RH bill to increase obstetric care and skilled birth attendants, is not emphasized in this bill. The causes of maternal mortality and morbidity are limited: hemorrhage, infection, obstructed labor and hypertensive disorders. These causes can be significantly addressed through investment in skilled birth attendants, and provision of health education for women and families.
There is probably no more important step the Philippines could take toward improving reproductive health. The UNFPA states that three-fourths (¾) of all maternal deaths could be averted by the presence of skilled birth attendants. By contrast, family planning is likely to reduce maternal deaths only by one-third. The RH bill’s current provisions for maternal care are important, but underdeveloped in comparison with other parts of the bill.
3. It does not protect the rights of conscience of those that will be responsible for implementing new measure.
All reproductive health care workers should “provide information and educate” and “render medical services” consistent with the new provisions in this bill. This bill does not include measures that protect conscientious objections for healthcare workers or institutions that refuse to provide services due to religious or cultural beliefs and practices. In addition, through state-imposed reproductive health curriculum in schools, this bill undermines the rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children. Likewise, denying couples the right to marry without first receiving “adequate instruction” on family planning and responsible parenthood violates their individual freedom conscience and discriminates against those who would refuse such training in religious or cultural grounds.
4. It violates freedom of expression.
The bill’s criminalization of speech that “maliciously engages in disinformation” (an undefined category) about the substance or even potential motives behind the RH bill violates the constitutional right to free speech and expression. The provision should be eliminated in its entirety.
5. Increase in Contraceptive use leads to higher abortion rate
Dr. Malcolm Potts, abortion and contraceptive advocate and past medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said that “As people turn to contraception, there will be a rise, not a fall, in the abortion rate.” Dr. Judith Bury of the Brook Advisory Center chimed in a few years later that “There is overwhelming evidence that, contrary to what you might expect, the provision of contraception leads to an increase in the abortion rate.”
The reason for this is twofold: First, contraceptives fail a certain percentage of the time. A 5% failure rate means that 5% of the couples using a certain method will be pregnant at the end of the year. Second, the use of contraceptives gives a false sense of security that leads to risky sexual behavior. The result is more “unplanned” pregnancies and hence more abortions.
6. It fails to reaffirm the Philippines’s protection of the unborn.
Filipino law has long defended the right to life of all persons, whether born or unborn. The Reproductive Health Bill makes only an ambiguous statement of principle (“While nothing in this Act changes the law against abortion…”) as part of a care provision for post-abortion complications. Additionally, the bill’s guarantee of “reproductive health care services,” as opposed to the defined term “reproductive health care,” as well as a “universal basic human right to reproductive health” according to international legal custom, could eventually open the door to undermining Philippines national law protecting unborn persons.
7. Recent reports emphasize the problems with widely used family planning programs that fail to meet the needs of the poorest populations.
“Strategies that seek to increase contraceptive use rapidly by improving services and access in convenient or well-resourced areas are likely to increase observed inequities in contraceptive use.” Maternal mortality and general reproductive health problems also remain high because the unique issues facing poor populations are not addressed. (Nuriye Ortayli and Shawn Malarcher, “Equity Analysis: Identifying Who Benefits from Family Planning Programs.”) In this way family planning programs, by focusing on contraceptive use rather than an integrated, comprehensive approach to population development, fail to address the needs of the poor.
8. There has never been a direct link connecting high population with high poverty rates.
Correlation is not causation. It is short-sighted to think of declining population growth as a goal in of itself. Population control, as an economic policy, has proven to be unsustainable. Across Europe and Asia, countries that saw steep declines in fertility in the past generation are now bracing themselves for the future consequences of an aging population, when a large number of elderly can no longer be supported by the smaller and younger working class. During the 1970s and 1980s, Singapore instituted an aggressive two-child policy, which led to a situation of labor shortages and the difficulty of supporting an aging population. In an effort to recover, Singapore now pursues a pro-fertility policy.
In the case of Hong Kong, the country’s dense population has had no debilitating effects on its economic development. Hong Kong has experienced a great economic boom and high levels of economic prosperity largely due to a sound banking system, no public debt, a strong legal system, and a rigorously enforced anti-corruption regime. This case provides a clear example that economic development is not synonymous with small population size, and that a large population is not only sustainable but an asset to development.