MANILA, Sept 6 (Mabuhay) – To accommodate Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III’s misgivings about the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, Senator Pia Cayetano on Thursday amended the bill to include a specific provision that declares that abortion is a crime plus 12 other amendments.

“To put the issue to rest and allay fears that the RH bill will promote abortion,” the sponsor of the bill introduced subsection (j) in Section 3: “Abortion is a criminal act in accordance with existing laws.”

Cayetano’s list of amendments followed on the heels of an earlier set of suggestions from Sen. Ralph Recto, who interpellated Sotto after the last part of his turno en contra speech Wednesday night. Among others, Recto wanted amended the penal provisions on LGU chiefs deemed “violators,” noting that local governments already have a grave financial burden in terms of basic health care, without having to worry about the new fiscal impositions from enforcing the RH bill, let alone jail terms. Recto’s wife, Vilma Santos, is governor Batangas province.

Addressing concerns that the bill promotes population control, especially of the poor, Cayetano renamed the bill from “An act providing for a national policy on reproductive health and population and development” to “An act providing for a national policy on reproductive health and responsible parenthood.”

In response to Sotto’s opposition of having contraceptives categorized as “essential medicines,” Cayetano deleted the objected phrase and introduced the concept of the Philippine National Drug Formulary System. The title of Section 9 thus now reads: The Philippine National Drug Formulary System (PNDFS) and Family Planning Supplies. The list of contraceptives in the section were not removed but the tasks of PNDFS was defined to include “selecting drugs, including family planning supplies, that will be included or removed from the essential drugs list (EDL) in accordance with existing practice.”

On the issue of public awareness, which is now Section 15 (previously Section 16) of the bill, Cayetano expanded its coverage to include maternal health and nutrition, as well as “family planning information and services, adolescent and youth reproductive health, guidance and counseling and other elements of reproductive health case under Section 4 (o).” It also specifies periodic review of material for public dissemination.

Cayetano also changed the title of Section 6, from Provision of Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care to Health Care Facilities, and ensured healthcare service to isolated and depressed areas with the addition of the phrase “through house-to-house visits or mobile health care clinics as needed.”

To reflect that Filipinos are kind and empathetic, and that Filipino tradition tend to “reach out and extend genuine care and concern for our countrymen in need, (and) more so for women who are pregnant and in need of special care,” Cayetano re-introduced subsection (l) in Section 3: “All complications arising from pregnancy, labor, and delivery shall be treated in a humane and compassionate manner.”

Cayetano also deleted the entire subsection (i) of Section 4 (The definition of terms) defining an “indigent.”

The other amendments concerned minor changes like the year, NGOs instead of non-government organizations, and punctuation marks. (MNS)