Reproductive health (RH) rights non-governmental organizations and (NGOs) and women’s rights advocates joined hands in condemning President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s policies toward reproductive health and women’s rights to sexual education and freedom to choose of what family planning methods they want to use. They said Arroyo’s pro-Church RH policies are very “anti-women, anti-family, and very non-scientific.”
BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 47, January 6-12, 2008
Reproductive health (RH) rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women’s rights advocates joined hands in condemning President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s policies toward reproductive health and women’s rights to sexual education and freedom to choose of what family planning methods they want to use. They said Arroyo’s pro-Church RH policies are very “anti-women, anti-family, and very non-scientific.”
Lawyer Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of EnGendeRights, Inc., a legal NGO that promotes reproductive health rights as basic human rights said the President’s “fanatic” adherence to the stance of the Church against sex education, scientific methods of family planning, emergency contraception (EC), ‘legal’ abortion, and divorce is a wanton disregard of the most fundamental rights of women and their children: the right to health and life.
In the paper that she read at the 8th Usapang Population and Development (POPDEV), led by Forum for Family Planning and Development (FFPD), Inc. and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) last December, she said most of the Philippine laws and policies are heavily pervaded by fundamentalist religious beliefs—mostly of the Roman Catholic Church dogmas—resulting in “complete denial of Filipino women’s rights to access to reproductive health information and health care services.”
“The direct consequence of fundamentalist morals in our society is the discrimination of women and complete disregard of the realities women face,” said Padilla, referring to the growing number of mothers dying due to complications during childbirth and the number of abortions done each year.
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In spite of the growing number of couples who want to use artificial or scientific methods of contraception such as condoms, diaphragm, intrauterine devices (IUD), sterilization (tubal ligation and vasectomy), pills and injectibles, the government has remained firm on its decision to promote only the natural family planning method or NFP.
In her 2003 speech on the celebration of Women’s Month, the Chief Executive showed her stance on family planning by stressing natural family planning (NFP) as the sole method acceptable.
This is in line with the existing stance of the ever-powerful Roman Catholic Church, which has an estimated more than 60 million members all over the country.
In 2003, former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit announced that the government would stop promoting IUD implant to mothers, saying such devices are “abortificient” – a view similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church.
This stance of the government adversely affected Filipino mothers and their children. Quoting the study made by the UNFPA in 2007, Padilla said that per 100,000 live births in the Philippines, 200 women die due to complications. She stressed that these complications can actually be prevented.
Besides this, Padilla also revealed that half of the pregnancies in the Philippines are unwanted. This translates to almost 1.43 million pregnancies a year. Because the pregnancies are unwanted, she said, these commonly end up in abortion.
“Since abortion is illegal in the Philippines, most of the mothers undergoing abortion go to abortion clinics which are unsafe,” Padilla explains.