Monday 4 August 2008

Philippines reproductive health bill has totalitarian elements

A bill before the Philippines parliament, due to be discussed tomorrow by the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, could pave the way for legal abortion, as well as promoting contraception, sex education and reproductive technology. Southern Cross Bioethics Institute of South Australia (logo shown here) have written a commentary on the bill and I've used it for this blog. In it they say: "The Bill proposes a heavy handed approach to dissenters, and elements of the Bill appear to be totalitarian".

Much of the bill covers areas, such as the elimination of violence against women, which are subject to existing laws. Although the Philippines presently has pro-life laws, this proposed bill, with its "reproductive rights" language, could lead to conflict. Such conflict might lead to case law in this area.

The bill would permit abortifacient birth control even though the constitution says that the state will protect people from conception. It defines birth control drugs and devices as medicines, yet they do not treat illnesses and can actually terminate young lives.

The proposed measure severely restricts conscientious objection to its provisions and, where it does allow such objection, requires practitioners immediately to refer the enquirer to medics who will provide the unethical service. For some health workers, this will itself go against their consciences.

It also recommends two-child families and, while it doesn't mention coercion, couples could come under subtle pressure. The bill could be amended to include coercion. Couples wanting to marry would need a certificate showing they had been instructed in family planning. The bill would punish people who are deemed to have misrepresented what it contains, a significant threat to free speech and a potential weapon against pro-lifers.

Overall, this proposed measure is an intrusion by the state on couples' rights to have families in accordance with their beliefs and it advances the international sexual health agenda which is part of the campaign for widespread birth control and abortion.

[Commentary on the Philippines Reproductive Health Bill, Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, August 2008]