'RH Bill Story' launch: Fight for reproductive rights continues

MANILA, Philippines – As the reproductive health (RH) law sees its long-awaited full implementation, lawmakers, doctors, and proponents of the law delivered a message to the public loud and clear: the fight for reproductive health rights in the Philippines is far from over.

At the book launch of Marilen Dañguilan's The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises held on Friday, October 19, in the Rappler headquarters, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman and Senator Risa Hontiveros both said the enactment of the law was only the beginning of the work that lies ahead.

Lagman and Hontiveros were among the authors of the RH law, formally known as Republic Act (RA) No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

Hontiveros noted that the book, which recounts the 11-year struggle to turn the RH bill into a law, was "not the end of a struggle" but an "account of its beginning."

RH LAW. Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, author of the reproductive health law, gives a speech during the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

RH LAW. Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, author of the reproductive health law, gives a speech during the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.

' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

Lagman said RA 10354, or the RH law, set the stage for sweeping away thoughts that women "cannot and should not have full control over her own body." He likewise said it did away with "primitive notions" that "an all-male clergy" can dictate choices women and couples should be able to make with "appropriate information and without the threat of eternal damnation."

"The RH Law forever changed the political landscape of a country whose lack of a rights-based, health-oriented, and development-driven policy on reproductive health and family planning made it seem permanently fossilized in the Middle Ages when it came to women's rights," he added.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS. Senator Risa Hontiveros delivers her speech during the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

WOMEN'S RIGHTS. Senator Risa Hontiveros delivers her speech during the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.

' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

Last November 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) re-certified that 51 contraceptives were non-abortifacient. The contraceptives were covered by the two-year-old temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC) against the RH Law.

The FDA resolution effectively lifted the TRO and prompted the Department of Health to fully implement the RH law.

ADVOCATES. Author Marilen Dau00f1guilan (leftmost) poses with guests at the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

ADVOCATES. Author Marilen Dau00f1guilan (leftmost) poses with guests at the launch of 'The RH Bill Story: Contentions and Compromises.

' Photo by Leanne Jazul/Rappler

Challenges lie ahead 

Despite this, Dañguilan said much work needed to be done. Part of this, she said, was strengthening judicial and legislative systems for sexual and RH rights.

She asked: "How do we ensure that women and men in these systems understand, appreciate, advance, and uphold sexual and reproductive health rights? … How do we make these people accountable?" Dañguilan came to these quesrtions after writing her book left her "appalled" at the "sexism and misogyny" found in Philippine laws.

As proponents lauded the full implementation of the RH law, they also called on groups to support bills they intended to push for next – such as those seeking to legalize divorce and abortion.

Likhaan Center for Women's Health Executive Director Dr Junice Melgar said THAT despite challenges, she remained "confident" that reproductive health and rights they pushed for along with other supporters, "will bear fruits in terms of information, supplies, and services for those who need them."

Dañguilan added, "They (supporters) persisted in the past, they continue to persist now, and they will persist in the future. And with what I've seen they can still win this war."

Other key speakers at the event were Esperanza Cabral, chair of the National Implementation Team of the RH Law and convenor of the Purple Ribbon for RH, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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