More lawmakers back family planning bill


By Jess Diaz
Saturday, August 9, 2008

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More members of the House of Representatives have endorsed the Reproductive Health Bill despite opposition expressed by the Catholic Church and El Shaddai to its enactment.

The bill aims to offer couples and women the choice to use natural or artificial family planning methods.

“The public debates on family planning and population have in fact encouraged more members of the House to make a stand by co-sponsoring the measure,” Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the bill’s principal authors, said yesterday.

“The bill has now a total of 67 authors, with 10 of the latest signatories signing up since the start of the second regular session of Congress two weeks ago,” he said.

This means that more lawmakers are defying the position taken by the “conservative Catholic hierarchy” on family planning, he added.

Lagman said the measure has also been endorsed by the House committee on appropriations, which he heads.

“This is significant because the bill has now been approved by no less than three standing committees of the House – committees on health, population and family relations, and appropriations. The bill will now be transmitted to the committee on rules so it can be calendared for plenary debates,” he said.

He pointed out that “with the steadily growing number of reproductive health advocates among House members, the measure will be finally passed by the House, nine years after the first similar bill was filed in the 11th Congress.”

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr., a former speaker and three-term congressman, has endorsed the proposed law on family planning.

The insistence of the bill’s authors to push for the enactment of the Reproductive Health Bill has triggered a word war between them and Catholic bishops.

Speaker Prospero Nograles has announced plans to call his colleagues to a caucus to get a consensus on whether to freeze or approve the measure.

While Lagman claims there were recent additions to the list of endorsers, there were also those who withdrew their support for it. Among them is Mark Mendoza of Batangas.

Three other House members – Rene Velarde, William Tieng and Ma. Carissa Coscolluela – have announced they would oppose it after Velarde’s father, Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai, expressed opposition to artificial family planning methods.

The three are representatives of party-list group Buhay, which is closely associated with El Shaddai.

In her State of the Nation Address last July 28, President Arroyo said she prefers natural family planning.

Lagman said while the President’s choice deserves respect, “it should in no way deter reproductive health advocates in Congress from pursuing the enactment of a comprehensive, rights-based and national policy on reproductive health and family planning.”

He said freedom of choice “will be enhanced and truly promoted by providing women and couples information and access to the full range of family planning options, from the natural to modern methods.”

“Providing only one method to the detriment of all the rest dilutes the freedom of informed choice. Widening women’s and couples’ choices will help them decide more intelligently on what method to use to plan and space their children,” he stressed.

He cited studies showing that 36 percent of Filipinos prefer modern birth control methods, while only 15 percent favor natural family planning.

Lagman earlier blamed the government’s failure to pursue a clear population management policy for the country’s burgeoning population, which he said is hindering economic growth. (PStar)

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