REALITIES SUPPORT PASSAGE
OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL
OF REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH BILL
The celebration of World Population Day brings to mind a great Filipino who was among the first to champion family planning and pioneer the inclusion of family planning as an indispensable component of the agenda on sustainable human development.
This Filipino was Rafael Salas who served for eighteen years as the first Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, then known as the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
For his efforts in promoting worldwide family planning and reproductive health as universal human rights and underscoring the inevitable linkage between population and development, he earned internationally the title of “Mr. Population”.
It is unfortunate that his own Philippines lags behind in the implementation of his world-acclaimed agenda on population as it relates to human development, and our country has yet to enact a nationwide and comprehensive statute or law on family planning, reproductive health and population development which is genuinely health and rights-based and adequately funded.
But all is not lost. We are still optimistic that the Third Session of the Fourteenth Congress will finally witness the passage of the reproductive health bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
This optimism is based on the following realities:
1. 130 Members of the House of Representatives have co-authored the RH Bill and they have remained steadfast in their advocacy.
2. This number at any given time constitutes a majority of the quorum of the House of Representatives wherein only a simple majority of the quorum is needed to approve the measure.
3. The co-authors are augmented by about two dozens Congresspersons who have pledged to vote for the RH bill despite their being not overt signatories.
4. The overwhelming public support for the bill has been consistent for almost two decades as documented by surveys after surveys both nationwide and local.
5. Multi-sectoral endorsement is mounting from the vast NGO community, academe, labor, business, professionals, youth and inter-faith partnership of Christian churches and Muslim communities.
6. There is bicameral favorable action in the Senate.
7. The MDGs will be more attainable, particularly the improvement of maternal health, reduction of infant mortality, universal primary education and eradication of poverty and hunger, once the RH bill becomes a law since family planning: (a) reduces the incidence of risky and unwanted pregnancies which result to maternal and infant deaths as well as abortions; (b) promotes birth spacing; and (c) allows women and couples to plan the number of their children whom they could afford to educate, medicate and truly love and care for.
8. The country’s coping with the global economic meltdown can be made easier with the passage of the RH bill because the lesser the size of the population, the greater would be the efficacy of the government’s response to the crisis.
9. The mitigation of the population growth rate (PGR) will generate savings which will enable the country to invest more on education, health, food security, employment, mass housing and the environment.
10. With the definitive political will of Congress, the growing support of the Filipino people and the realization and understanding of the nexus between population and development, it would be unwise for the Executive to reject the RH bill.