climate change

House drafting new RH bill

The House of Representatives' proposed new version of the Reproductive Health bill amends provisions on contraceptives

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is working on a new set of amendments to House Bill 4244, or the Reproductive Health bill, that will try to address the concerns of the Catholic Church.

House Majority Leader Mandaluyong Rep Neptali Gonzales II said Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr, RH bill principal author Albay Rep Edcel Lagman met on Sunday, September 2, to discuss it.

Based on initial talks, the provisions on contraceptives will be changed.

Instead of a bill that “promotes” the use of contraceptives nationwide, the bill will turn into a “poverty measure” that will make “available” contraceptives only to the poorest of the poor.

“Basically, what’s being opposed by the Catholic bishops is not the use of contraceptives per se. It’s the provision that mandates the government to promote and finance contraceptives. The problem is that is the heart of the RH bill… We will turn the RH bill into a poverty measure. Promotion of contraceptives will be limited to the poorest of the poor identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” Gonzales told reporters on the sidelines of the House plenary on Monday, September 3.

“We believe that the CBCP is amenable to having the bill amended. This is the best things we can think of. The government cannot totally surrender the promotion [of contraceptives]. It’s the very heart of the RH. So le’ts meet half way. You give opportunity to the poorest of the poor,” Gonzales added.

Gonzales said they will create a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will finalize the new version of the bill and later present it to the critics.

Acceptable?

RH bill co-author Iloilo Rep Janette Garin supports the modification.

“It can work. If you look at the funding, it cannot accommodate the total need of the country. The allocation of government will really focus on those belonging to the lower socio-economic class. If that is the proposal, we are very much amenable to it. Whether we like it or not, the government can’t afford to provide everything,” Garin said.

HB 4244 seeks to allocate P2-billion to reproductive health. But this funding is not dedicated to contraceptives alone. Garin said it includes funding for midwives and other commodities.

Garin said they are looking at 5.7 million couple-beneficiaries, based on government data. It would appear that the target beneficiaries are the same beneficiaries of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

Garin dismissed an earlier statement by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that the Senate will resume deliberations on the RH bill in June 2013, or after the 2013 elections. “We are awaiting the creation of the TWG so that members of the House and Senate can see it. It will be a smoother process,” she said.

“I still believe that at the end of the day, we can thresh this out,” she added.

Garin said that to address teen pregnancy, RH education will remain in the bill.

Once the critics of the RH bill agree to the amendments, Gonzales said it would be easy to pass the bill in Congress. – Rappler.com

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