MANILA, Sept. 29, 2011—Interpellations on the controversial “reproductive health” (RH) bill have yielded even more loopholes, with the Senate President pointing to the expansive definition of the term “reproductive health.”
Senate Bill (SB) 2865 defines reproductive health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes.”
The second part of the definition reads: “This implies that people are able to have a safe and satisfying sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. This further implies that women and men attain equal relationships in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Wednesday the implication was that married couples who are unable to have children can be considered as not having “complete physical, mental and social well-being,” and can seek recourse to the State.
Under Section 2 of SB 2865, the State “recognizes and guarantees … the right to health which includes reproductive health.”
“This wording of the definition suggests to me, that even if you have a safe and satisfying sex life but you do not have the capability to reproduce, you do not have ‘complete physical, mental and social well-being,’” Enrile pointed out.
He asked: “Is there still a need … for the state to distribute condoms and these family planning supplies, and information, if they cannot reproduce?”
As Enrile explored the ramifications of concepts and definitions in the RH bill, the sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, said the phrasing only means “A married couple may engage in sex and will be the ones to determine when they have children.”
The website consciencelaws.org says otherwise. In an extended legal analysis of the RH bill, Sean Murphy, the Canada-based administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project, said legislating reproductive rights as a “human right” constitutes a “claim that is legally and philosophically in dispute.”
The definition of RH, he added “implies a right to access artificial reproduction.”
On Monday, Enrile pointed out that repeated references in the RH bill to the provision of a “full range” of RH methods, techniques, facilities and services could provide an opening to drugs and devices that can kill the zygote, or the fertilized egg.
Abortifacients are prohibited by the Constitution, Enrile said.
Cayetano answered: “There is a strong divide [among medical experts] on when does life begin,” but added she was willing to adopt “appropriate language.”
“We will distinguish between those that work prior to fertilization [and those that work after],” she said.
RH bill critics point out, however, that even the regular birth control pill has an abortifacient mechanism, as it thins the lining of the uterine wall to prevent the zygote from implanting.
The group Doctors for Life has pointed out that this mechanism of action, which makes the uterine wall inhospitable to the zygote, is a backup mechanism as pills do not prevent ovulation in women all the time. (CBCP for Life)