Bagong Simula sa Bayan ni Juan

Breaking News

For other news and information, scroll the links found on the sidebar. Links to other relevant sites and media blogs are located on the lower right portion. - RAFS76

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reproductive Health Not Limited to Population Control says Women’s and Doctors’ Groups


The Gabriela Women’s Party and the Health Alliance for Democracy asserted that the issue of reproductive health should not be limited to population control but is a part of the people’s right to health and thus, a component of a comprehensive, accessible, and relevant health care system for the people.


Proponents of House Bill No. 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population
Development Act of 2008 said the bill aims to promote responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing, among others. The bill is pending at the Lower House.

In a forum organized by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), Oct. 17, lawyer Clara Rita Padilla of EnGendeRights, Inc., presented the salient points of the bill.

Padilla said under the bill, contraceptives are classified as essential medicines that need to be procured by every local and national hospital.

The bill also directs all public hospitals to make available to indigent mothers, upon request, the procedure of ligation without cost to the patient. It also states that the cost of tubal ligation, vasectomy and intrauterine device insertion (IUD) for indigent clients shall be fully subsidized by PhilHealth.

Private reproductive health care service providers are encouraged to render such services free of charge or at reduced professional fee rates to indigent and low-income patients.

The bill also requires each Congressional district to implement a Mobile Health Care Service funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). As part of the said service, a van would be provided to deliver reproductive health care goods and services as well as disseminate knowledge and information on reproductive health.

Reproductive Health Education will be taught to students from Grade 5 up to Fourth Year High School, including non-formal education.

Also contained in the bill is the employers’ responsibility to provide “reasonable” quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers whether organized in unions or not.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), said that as of Oct. 9, there are 130 legislators supportive of the bill, while 81 are against and 27 are neutral.

Pascual said he is hopeful that the bill would be approved by the bicameral committee of both houses of Congress by next year. He noted that legislators have crossed party lines in their vote on the bill. “Even Arroyo’s closest allies are in favor of the RH bill,” said Pascual.

“Wrong framework”

Meanwhile, Dr. Gene Nisperos, vice chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), criticized the framework of the RH bill.

Nisperos said that while they recognize and appreciate the effort to address the issue of reproductive health, the RH bill is essentially “flawed” in its framework of population management and development.

In its Declaration of Policy, the bill states that the RH policy is anchored on the rationale that sustainable human development is better assured with manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizen.

Nisperos said that the current level of discussion must be broadened beyond the issue of population control.

Nisperos asserted that the reproductive health issue has political and economic aspects. He said that the poorest experience the worst implications of poor reproductive health care. He said that mortality rates of the newborn, infant, and children under-five are significantly higher among the poor than among the well-to-do.

The Poor Have it Worst

Only 25 percent of poor women give birth with assistance of health professionals while 92 percent of women belonging to the upper class have professionals attending to them.

Nisperos said, “Unless the health of the poorest improves, the population will become increasingly poor and unhealthy.”

He added, “Reproductive health should be part of a comprehensive, accessible, and relevant health care system for the people.” He said that the present health care system does not respond to the needs of the Filipino people, especially poor women.

For this reason, Nisperos said that the Department of Health (DoH), not the Population Commission, should be the primary government agency that will ensure reproductive health.

Nisperos also deplored that the deteriorating health care system has shifted the burden of health care, including reproductive health care, to women themselves.
“It remains the State’s responsibility to ensure the well-being and health of its people,” said Nisperos. He said that the government should provide free reproductive health services and materials.

Citing data from the DoH’s Health Policy Development and Planning Bureau, Nisperos said the Philippines lags behind neighboring countries when it comes to maternal health.

Health Indicators Selected Asian Countries

Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said that reproductive health is part of women’s rights and should be treated as a human right.

Ilagan said that the Philippine Constitution guarantees the right to health of all citizens. She said that United Nations agreements such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also recognize reproductive health as women’s rights.

Ilagan, who was a teacher for 41 years, underscored the importance of women’s right to information and of the youth’s right to be educated on reproductive health.

Nisperos said, “The recognition of women’s rights, including reproductive health, must be framed on the overall pursuit of human rights, including the right to health and the right to development. These rights can only be realized if we dismantle the unequal and unjust socio-economic and political structures that cause poverty and the marginalization of women.” (Bulatlat)