A youth’s view of the RH bill

In a tradition-bound society, it is not surprising that such measures will meet resistance, when all we seek is reproductive health information and services

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02:58 AM September 21st, 2012

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By: Hans Gabriel Atanacio, September 21st, 2012 02:58 AM

ILLUSTRATION BY NATASHA RINGOR

I belong to a family of medically-inclined individuals. My late grandfather was a doctor. He started Sta. Rita Hospital in our hometown. As majority of my relatives are healthcare professionals, they took over from my grandfather and later renamed it Dr. Eutiquio Atanacio Memorial Hospital, in honor of our beloved old man.

The hospital is on the ground floor of our ancestral house. I spent most of my childhood summers and holidays in that house. Having been used to this kind of environment, scenes such as mothers being rushed to the delivery room are nothing new to me.

I grew up believing that my life would be dedicated to this field of work,  medicine—and here I am, a medical laboratory science student. As such, I’m aware of the issues related to my chosen career. Yes, I am talking about the reproductive health (RH) bill. A lot of people are talking about it. It has been an issue way before the current administration.

I’m here to talk about my side of the matter as a youth, and as someone who has a background in the field. I do not intend to take a stand on behalf of all the youth, or of medical practitioners. I know this is a very sensitive topic, and we all have our own views and opinions. I’m merely stating facts, and I’ll try my best to balance my judgment. I pass on to my readers the responsibility for their conclusions after reading my article.

Maternal and child care

What is the RH bill? I will not discuss the whole thing, since a single article won’t suffice. Put simply, the RH bill is a proposed law that addresses the issues of maternal and child care, economics in relation to population, and circumstances that involve sexual intercourse.

It is geared toward the development of the nation’s healthcare, by giving Filipinos of whatever economic status access to medical and health services.

But if these are the reasons behind the controversial bill, if it was written for the benefit of the Filipino community, why is it opposed by many?

Great influence

It cannot be denied that religion plays a big part in our society. It has great influence on how its followers decide on a particular matter. It is no secret that the Catholic Church is against the bill, so it’s not surprising that devout Catholics are against the bill.

While they have their own basis for going against this proposed law—and some even show evidence of the harmful effects of the drugs in this bill—the main argument of anti-RH advocates is doctrinal. Many of them believe this bill goes against the teachings of Christianity. They believe that the bill will draw us away from God.

In my family, health is our top concern. Ironically, some of our family members oppose the bill. They believe that the benefits we will get from this law are outweighed by its harmful effects. There is too much risk, they say, compared to what we can gain from it. They are apprehensive that the only ones who will benefit are the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that will provide the drugs and health services mandated by the bill.

Since the government will partially or fully subsidize certain healthcare services and medications if the bill becomes law, the focus might be directed to how these companies will be able to get more patients, rather than how they can provide better services, knowing that the government will be there to pay for the patients.

We live in a tradition-bound society, so it is not surprising that measures such as the RH bill will meet resistance or even outright disapproval, when all  we seek is reproductive health information and services. Indeed, there is a vocal segment in our community that rejects the proposed measure. However, without the bill, we are denied access to accurate information about sexuality, family planning, pregnancy, childbearing and related diseases.

Belonging to the younger generation, I might easily be suspected of being in favor of the bill without understanding what it is all about. After all, don’t young people tend to be nonconformist? But let me explain why we need to have a law that addresses this particular concern.

Increased risks

Ignorance of important RH information exposes the youth to increased risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexual diseases such as HIV-AIDS, among other problems. The reproductive health bill will ensure that relevant information and appropriate life-saving services will not be withheld from the Filipino people, especially the youth.

I was raised in a family of medical practitioners. I have a great appreciation for the responsibility, as well as the rewards, of providing healthcare. But I also understand its challenges, even as I belong to the youth sector.

My mind and consciousness tell me that the issue of reproductive health should be addressed by the state through comprehensive healthcare reform. This is my stand. What is yours?

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