Philippine Reproductive Health Bill Passed on Third and Final Reading in Congress and Senate
On December 17, after almost 14 years of discussion and debate, the reproductive health bill (the RH bill) was passed during its third and final reading in the House of Representatives, with a vote of 133 in favor and 79 against, and in the Senate, with a vote of 13 in favor and 8 against. Philippine President Benigno Aquino had designated passing the RH bill an urgent matter and called on Congress to vote on it before Christmas, prompting late-night congressional sessions that led to the passage of the bill. The bicameral conference committee is now set to consolidate the two versions of the bill, and then both chambers of Congress will need to ratify the consolidated version before it goes before the President for his final signature.
The World Youth Alliance laments the passage of the RH bill. For over four years, WYA has opposed the bill because it relies on the false premise that a government-run population management program is necessary for development. It also lacks adequate protections for freedom of conscience, pays inadequate attention to maternal and child health, and does not reaffirm commitment to protecting the unborn. The bill does not properly address the needs of Filipinos, who want measures to address sustainable development concerns that fully respect their cultures, religious beliefs, and values while promoting the health of mothers and children.
As the bill takes effect and is implemented over the coming years, we will continue to work with those legislators and advocates who fought against the measure to push for long-term solutions that actually respect the rights of conscience of Filipino health care workers and that stimulate the innovation needed for sustainable development in the Philippines. We will push for increased skilled birth attendants so that every mother has access to care during childbirth and maternal mortality drastically decreases. We will push for increased access to education so that every young person can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to recognize his or her own potential and to contribute to the development of our society and our economy. We will push for freedom of conscience for all Filipinos, allowing all to act according to the dictates of their own consciences and not to the commands of the government.
We call on young people in the Philippines to join us in this fight. We call on young people to be aware about issues related to the RH bill—population, development, and women’s health—and to continue to work together to safeguard our local communities from any threats to family and to human dignity. The passage of the bill and the years of debate leading up to it have shown us that our values and priorities as Filipinos continue to be threatened on different fronts. Young people must take a more vigilant and active role in monitoring the implementation of the bill in the next few years and in directing its impact on society, aiming to prevent the violation of dignity that the bill’s provisions threaten to do.
The World Youth Alliance would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people, especially the legislators, who selflessly devoted their time, talent and treasure to fighting a bill that does not adequately provide for the needs of Filipinos. The journey is not over, as we continue to work toward improving the health and education opportunities of Filipinos. We invite you to join us at WYA as we aim to improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos—and people around the world—through promoting the dignity of the human person and through educating youth about positive solutions to the problems facing our world, such as sustainable development, maternal and child health, and access to education and employment.