Friday, December 21, 2012

Statement on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill

Today, we wait not only for Christmas but also for the signing into law of the controversial Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill by Pres. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III . A sudden series of events have occurred last week, with the second and third readings of the bill in both houses of Congress, the bicameral committee conference and its ratification in both the Senate and House finished in a week's time. However, this recent urgency cannot dismissed the fact that the popularly known RH Bill had a painful and long process of labor before its upcoming birth as an RH Law as it endured more than a decade of history in the legislative mill.

Nonetheless, despite the law’s decade-long history, several groups particularly the Catholic Church and some even within the field of the health and medicine still opposed the measure.  It is this dilemma that a network of medical students in a conservative society, the Asian Medical Students’ Association – Philippines (AMSA-Philippines), had faced, despite being the official local affiliate of a staunch advocate of reproductive health, the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) which heads several projects on sex education, pride marches and red ribbon campaign. AMSA-Philippines, in response to the increasing incidence rate of AIDS in the country and to the issue of the reproductive health bill, reinstituted its Standing Committee on Reproductive Health and AIDS (SCORA) during the National Medical Students' Conference 2012 last March to recreate a committee whose sole concern is reproductive health among the vast array of health issues. But even so, such a statement of support for the reproductive bill was quite difficult to produce a few months ago. AMSA-Philippines fully respects all of its member organizations' rights and opinions and it gave importance to consensus rather than mere majority in such a dividing issue.

However, right now, with an actual legislation at hand, a lack of stand will simply magnify the apathy or even the disagreement among the different sectors within the health professions towards the law.

It is with this scenario that we, an association of different student organizations hailing from various medical schools: Advocates for Consciousness and Social Involvement Society of ASMPH, Asian Medical Students' Association-JONELTA of UPHSD-JFSM, Asian Medical Students' Association-SLU of SLU-SM, Asian Medical Students' Association-UERM of UERMMMCI, Asian Medical Students' Association-UST of UST-FMS, Asian Medical Students' Association-WVSU of WVSU-CM, Doktor ni Juan Doctors with Social Responsibility of UPM-SHS, Philippine Medical Students' Association of OLFU-CM, UP Medical Students for Social Responsibility-IPPNW of UPCM, and USLS College of Medicine Student Council of USLS-CM, do hereby call on its members, fellow medical students, physicians, health professionals, and the rest of the Filipino society to welcome the passage of the RH Bill into law.

Although despite this legislation, we still have our own beliefs on contraception, on sex education and on reproductive health, we call on everyone to welcome the RH law especially as a form of respect to our democracy.  Similar to every election wherein not all candidates can be the president and not everyone will be pleased, the RH law will and has surely raised the eyebrows of several of our citizens. Nevertheless, with a series of long debates from both sides, we truly believe that the law has now reached a point that it is a consensus of a majority and one that Filipinos can agree upon. AMSA-Philippines respects the ideas pro and con to the passage of the RH Bill but we also believe that we must not be stagnant in making decisions; a consensus allows us to be progressive in a country that values freedom.

Also, the different revisions should not be looked upon as factors which watered-down the bill but rather as agreements which led to its passage and thus should be supported. We call on those who firmly stood up for the bill to uphold the different provisions, such as the deletion of any mention of population and development; the deletion of any mention of international agreements and treaties; that funding be given by the national government; that there should be a right to a responsible, consensual, safe and satisfying sex life among others and to continually cooperate with the different sectors of society especially the different religions and health professions to produce a agreeable , effective and responsible implementing rules and regulations.

We call on those who were ardent opponents of the bill to once again review the latest edition of the legislation and to open their hearts and minds that they may see how the bill has changed to please the majority of our society. We call on them to, rather than oppose the measure and promulgate more speculations and misconceptions about the law, but be otherwise vigilant and suggestive of ways on how to improve the implementation of the law in the country.
  We are the Asian Medical Students’ Association of the Philippines, an association of different student organizations from different medical schools, and we welcome the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill into law. We believe that this issue has notably divided our nation for more than a decade and it is but right that we now unite in support of the mothers, of the youth, of the unborn and those who are already born. It is but right that we now unite for our rights especially our right to health.

The battle for reproductive health and society’s health concerns in general has just begun and with a committee made solely for reproductive health, the Filipino society can count on this network of medical students in promoting a better reproductive health in our country.

Madison M. Dominguez
National Officer for Reproductive health incl. AIDS/HIV
AMSA - Philippines

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