The United States is not the only country to experience fierce battles over health care legislation and the availability of contraception and sex education. The Phiippines House of Representatives are meant to vote on a new health care bill that would make contraceptives and family planning information more widely available, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines stands as a formidable presence in the island archipelago nation. Over 10,000 people rallied over the weekend against the bill that many Catholics feel encourages lower moral standards and allows more people to engage in promiscuous activity. Many protesters over the weekend urged people to turn away from contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage, which are all frowned upon by the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
Supporters of the bill have pushed the legislation forward in the hopes of curving serious population growth that many feel is untenable. Economists have stated that the extremely high birth rate in the Philippines, nearly double that of the United States on a yearly basis, contributes to poverty and a strained infrastructure.
Catholic protesters of the new bill, which should be voted on in the House of Representatives in the next several weeks before going to a much more challenging vote in the Senate, have blamed the current President Benigno Aquino III for allowing such legislation to be considered. Many people want to revise the new bill to remove elements of family planning and contraceptive resources from it altogether.
Unfortunately, many of the people that would benefit most from the legislation, mainly the country’s poor population in which many women bear around six children in their lifetimes, have no way of hearing about or weighing in on the current debate. Malaya Business Insight notes that a Universal Health Care unit is attempting to spread information about what the bill would mean for the population at large, but the work is slow and difficult.
President Aquino’s health care politics haven’t only drawn ire from the conservative factions in the Philippines but also from LGBT activists who feel that this same bill does not account for fair practice towards gay, lesbian and transgender people. Critics have noted that an early version of the bill, House Bill 4244, included a clause that prohibited discrimination based upon sex, age, religion and sexual orientation.
Queerty notes that a newer draft of the bill put the phrase “sexual orientation” in brackets for future removal, stirring activists to speak out against a long tradition of ignoring LGBT discrimination on the legal platform. Commentators have noted that Aquino’s move to remove the LGBT clause is an effort to appease a conservative population and get the bill to pass through the House and Senate. Opponents of the president feel that he is refusing to push for LGBT human rights.
The LGBT community in the Philippines has been struggling for political recognition in recent years, demanding that President Aquino take into account the discrimination and unique challenges faced by those who are not embraced in the strong Catholic hierarchy of the nation.
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