Reproductive health bill reaches plenary

2/22/11

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The controversial reproductive health bill has once again reached the plenary in the House of Representatives and will be up for debates starting next month.

Members of the House rules committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to send it to the floor after a consolidated version of the measure passed the committee level, according to Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Representative Janette Garin.

“It’s a true exercise of legislative democracy. It gives all of us an opportunity to listen to all sides and finally vote on the proposed measure,” Garin, one of the authors of the bill, said in a text message.

The bill also reached plenary in the last Congress, but debates stalled its passage. The panel of debaters created by then Speaker Prospero Nograles to speed up the debates were not activated because of opposition from groups opposed to the measure.

Although not among the priority bills of Malacañang, proponents are upbeat about its passage before the break in March.

The bill, or “An act providing for a comprehensive policy on responsible parenthood, reproductive health and population development and for other purposes,” was a consolidation of six bills pending before the committee on population and family relations.

There was no specific amount appropriated for its implementation. According to the bill, the funding for family health and responsible parenting will be coursed through the Department of Health and the Population Commission.

The bill mandates the government to “promote, without bias, all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.”

While abortion is recognized as illegal and punishable by law, it says that “the government shall ensure that all women needing care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and counseled in a humane, non-judgmental and compassionate manner.”

The bill calls for a “multi-dimensional approach” that will integrate a family planning and responsible parenthood component into all anti-poverty programs of government.

“The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless,” it said.

Age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education is also required under the bill from Grade Five to Fourth Year high school using “life-skills and other approaches.”

The bill also mandates the Department of Labor and Employment to guarantee the reproductive health rights of its female employees. Those companies with less than 200 workers are required to enter into partnership with hospitals, health facilities, and/ or health professionals in their areas for the delivery of reproductive-health services.

Employers are obliged to monitor pregnant working employees among their workforce and ensure they are provided paid half-day prenatal medical leaves for each month of the pregnancy period that they are employed.

The national government and the local government will ensure the availability of reproductive health care services, including family planning and prenatal care.

Any person or public official who prohibits or restricts the delivery of legal and medically safe reproductive health care services will be meted penalty by imprisonment or a fine.

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