MANILA -- The much hyped controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill 5043, that is being deliberated in Congress, is more of a “pregnancy prevention” or "fertility control bill" than maternal health bill, say bioethics experts.
In a colloquium held November 13 at the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas (UST) - Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, leaders of the Southeast Asian Center for Bioethics, Medicine's Department of Bioethics, the Bioethics Society of the Philippines, Catholic Physicians' Guild of the Philippines, and the Philippine Nurses Association made a "consensus statement" that opposed the RH Bill in its present form.
The bill cleverly, although erroneously, styles itself as anti-abortion while promoting birth-control methods that are "potentially abortifacient agents," said bioethics experts comprising doctors and other health professionals.
Fr. Fausto Gomez, OP, president of the Southeast Asian Center for Bioethics and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life of the Holy See, said maternal health problems should be solved not by an "anti-birth policy" but by "means that are socially and economically based."
Gomez added that all the means to be employed should respect the dignity of life and of persons, citing the consensus statement:
"In the pursuit of the authentic common good, let us appreciate the obligation to ensure that no other aims or goals, no matter how pressing, obscure will overshadow our value of and respect for life and the dignity of the person and the family."
"The advocates of the RH bill exaggerate maternal health problems contrary to the government's own statistics that show pregnancy complications are not a leading cause of death among Filipino mothers," UST's student paper, The Varsitarian, reported.
As health professionals, the bioethics members said they are of the same intention in protecting the mother during her reproductive years. "This bill, however, does not address the problems of reproductive health in a holistic manner and focuses mainly on pregnancy prevention," a statement said.
They also criticized that the bill "must consider the rights of others involved, specifically the unborn, and those tasked with their care." The statement also stressed that "the anti-abortion stance of the bill is contradicted by the promotion of contraceptive agents (IUD and hormonal contraceptives) which actually act after fertilization and are potentially abortifacient agents."
The bill is self-contradicting on abortion but advocating methods that hinder conception, said Dr. Josephine Lumitao of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and UST Hospital, which is a country's premier health service institute.
While the bill denies support for abortion, it promotes hormonal contraceptives and intrauterine devices, which prevent conception, and abortifacients, that destroy the fertilized egg, Lumitao said. She explained that hormonal contraceptives, in the form of a pill, skin patch, or injection -- all widely available in the market -- contain hormones that prevent ovulation, and render the outer layer of the uterus
unfavorable for implantation of the fertilized egg, which leads to its death due to lack of nutrition.
Intrauterine devices, a contraceptive placed inside the uterus, prevent implantation.
"Is it not contradictory if the bill promotes abortifacient methods?"
Friday, December 19, 2008