“The RH bill is about women’s access to healthcare, the right to informed choice. This is not an issue of population control or a question of religion or faith. Lawmakers, as well as the rest of the Filipino people, should focus on the ‘un-health’ of women and children’s, and this should be the primary consideration when lawmakers cast their vote to end debates and interpellation on August 7.” – Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela Women’s party
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — On August 7, the House of Representatives would end the debate on the so-called RH Bill, or the legislative proposal for a reproductive health bill. For the last two years, the proposal has been alternately vilified and praised; hailed as a solution to the worsening state of maternal health care in the country, on the one hand, then attacked as an instrument of Satan that will send women’s souls straight to hell.
For the proponents of the RH bill, especially Gabriela Women’s Party, the debate is simple: they want a law that will help guarantee universal access to and information on reproductive health and maternal care.
Now nearing the final stretch, the two bills House Bill No. 4244 or An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and For Other Purposes and Senate Bill No. 2378 or An Act Providing For a National Policy on Reproductive Health and Population and Development stand to be either approved or dismissed.
Among the strongest voices in Congress pushing for the passage of the RH Bill are the representatives of Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP). From the beginning of the debate, the two lawmakers Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus have argued that the issue goes beyond what the dominant Catholic religious sector says or the lobby for perks and pork barrel: they argue that what makes the RH bill necessary is the right of the women and all Filipinos to affordable and reliable access to health care.
Science, not metaphysical arguments
“The RH bill is about women’s access to healthcare, the right to informed choice. This is not an issue of population control or a question of religion or faith. Lawmakers, as well as the rest of the Filipino people, should focus on the state of women and children’s ‘un-health’, and this should be the primary consideration when lawmakers cast their vote to end debates and interpellation on August 7,” said Ilagan.
In an interview with the GMA-7, Ilagan said there are many logical and rational arguments that support and even underscore the importance of the passage of the RH Bill. Primary among these, she said, are the statistics exposing the worsening state of maternal health care in the country.
“There has been a 31–percent increase in our maternal mortality rate from 168 to 221 for every 100,000 live births. Also, the lack of public health support contributes directly to the worsening state of children’s malnutrition add to children’s vulnerability to illnesses,” she said.
The Gabriela solon also cited a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, stating that three out of every 10 Filipino children aged five and below are stunted or too short for their age; while two in every 10 children also in the same age range are underweight.
Ilagan also said that based on reports from the World Health Organization, 15 percent of all pregnancies are met with complications.
“Some of these complications are serious enough to send women to either the hospital or the grave. In the meantime, from among more than two million live births annually, 300,000 maternal complications occur yearly. This figure is seven times higher than the Department of Health’s annual count for tuberculosis; 19 times higher than statistics for heart diseases, and 20 times higher than the count for malaria in women. As a result, more than 11 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications or from the pregnancy itself,” she said.
“This dismal picture of un-health will continue to deteriorate unless policies that will help ensure women’s access to healthcare are set in place. These are arguments that are grounded in reality, and not on metaphysics,” she said.
Ilagan said many of those opposed to the RH Bill are twisting the discussions by trying to reduce the RH Bill into a matter involving mainly the use of contraceptives and artificial methods of family planning.
“It’s a great disservice to Filipinos to reduce discussions and debate on reproductive healthcare to a matter of using contraceptives and whether this is moral or not. We are pushing for a comprehensive reproductive healthcare system that is scientific, meaning reproductive health care should benefit from science, whether western, oriental, alternative or indigenous as long as it ensures RH-related procedures and technologies that are medically safe,” she explained.
Outside Congress, progressive women’s groups led by Gabriela decried how Pres. Benigno Aquino III has stated that responsible parenthood was the framework for population control in the RH Bill. Gabriela has long declared that it against the inclusion of population control provisions in the RH Bill.
Gabriela secretary-general Lana Linaban criticized Aquino’s roundabout argument that the country’s large population is to blame for the poverty that the people face.