Manila Standard, Wed June 1, 2011

SENATORS opposed to the reproductive health bill are pushing for other bills outlawing contraceptives and drugs to counter the anticipated passing of the controversial measure in the House of Representatives, a move that a women’s group attacked on Tuesday.

Arguing for the provisions of the bill for the protection of the unborn child, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile sought before the committee on youth, women and demography a list of contraceptives and drugs that intervene with fertilization at the onset of conception.

Enrile said the issue on reproductive health was being used as a “convenient excuse to advance population control,” yet it had been neglecting the rights of the unborn child.

Enrile and others opposed to the reproductive health bill—Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Ralph Recto and Ramon Revilla Jr.—are espousing the unborn child’s basic right to life and welfare and against acts that place it in danger of being harmed, injured or killed.

But medical practitioners led by former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez said it would be impossible to ban products and drugs containing abortifacients as those substances were present in common anti-hypertensive and anti-cancer drugs.

The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines said the unborn child bill was an attempt to derail the passage of the reproductive health bill.

“They merely want to further delay the sponsorship of the RH bill in the Senate and that is frustrating,” group chairman Elizabeth Angsioco said.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, author of the Senate version of the reproductive health bill, also slammed the Enrile group for trying to enact legislation that she said was establishing the views of the Catholic Church.

Santiago said the health of the unborn could not be separated from the mother, which was already being protected by the Constitution and the revised Penal Code.

She said the proposed law would make pregnancies even more risky for women. It would also remove decision-making during pregnancy complications away from the woman, her loved ones, and their health provider who were in the best position to balance the lives at stake and weigh the risks and consequences.

“It will transfer difficult choices to a distant, cold, and inflexible law,” Santiago said.

“In effect, the proposed law will treat women as mere incubating machines to ensure the life of the unborn.”

On Tuesday, Senator Panfilo Lacson moved to consolidate the bill on the protection of the unborn child with the Senate version of the reproductive health bill to defang the contraceptive component of the RH bill.

In the House, Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, an author of the reproductive health bill, urged her co-authors to have the population-control provisions deleted from the bill.

But her co-authors said the bill was not a population control bill but a measure aimed at establishing comprehensive reproductive health care for mothers and children.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the principal author of the bill, said population or demographic targets had already been deleted from the consolidated bill. Rey E. Salita, Christine F. Herrera, Macon Ramos-Araneta