• Health workers urged to practice religious tolerance under RH law

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    Health workers who refuse to provide reproductive health services and commodities to a patient based on their religion’s dogma violate the patient’s Constitutional right to freedom of religion.

    The authors of the Reproductive Health (RH) law made the warning in support of the argument presented by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on the High Court’s decision on the RH law’s legality. Leonen said a health worker who refuses to provide RH services and commodities to a patient because it is against the health worker’s religion in effect imposes his religious beliefs on the patient, and violates the latter’s right to freedom of religion which is enshrined in the Constitution.

    The RH law mandates the state to provide natural and artificial family planning services to families, including condoms, pills and intrauterine devices. Likewise, it provides optional and age-appropriate sex education.

    “Their patients’ welfare should be their foremost priorities. It would be highly unjust for them to impose their religious beliefs on others,” Health Undersecretary Janette Garin, who was an Iloilo representative when the RH bill was passed into law by Congress, said in a text message to The Manila Times.

    “The freedom of religion in the context of the RH law implementation presupposes not just respect for the religious conviction of the health workers, but also of the client seeking the RH services or government intervention. The health worker should at least refer the client to someone who can provide the RH services. Otherwise, it seems that we’re only respecting one religion,” Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao pointed out.

    “Access to medical care, including reproductive health services, cannot be denied to others on the basis of a medical practitioner’s religious beliefs,” Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers added.

    The Catholic Church is staunchly against the RH law.

    “No woman should die giving life. A health worker should save life and avoid preventable pregnancy-related deaths,” Garin, an obstetrician-gynecologist by profession, stressed.

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