Reproductive health bill should be passed says Santiago

By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 5, 2011-Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday called for the urgent passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill following the rise in maternity-related deaths, unwanted teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection in the country, which could be curbed by implementing measures that would promote and safeguard the reproductive health of persons, especially women.


Santiago, who has filed the Reproductive Health Act, aka SB No. 2378 in the Senate said that in the celebration of Women’s Month at the University of the Philippines Visayas, women are mostly affected by the delayed passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill into law.


She said that access to reproductive health information and services are virtually denied to the poor, the less-educated, the adolescents, the rural, indigenous women, and women from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). By responding to the reproductive health needs of women, the RH bill affords women more employment, educational opportunities and ultimately, economic empowerment.


The senator claimed that more than half of the pregnancies in the Philippines are unattended by health professionals, saying that child-birth related deaths could have been avoided, if more Filipino women have access to reproductive health information and health care.


“Only three percent of the population does not use contraceptives because of religious belief,” Santiago said, saying that the proposed law that could reduce the number of abortions is being opposed by fundamentalist groups.


She furthered that the increased access to information and services on modern contraceptive methods will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, eliminate the need for abortion, and prevent maternal deaths.


2008 national and manila surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) stated that the Filipino people have recognized the need for the passage of the RH bill, saying that 71 percent of the national population and 86 percent of the population in Metro Manila are in favor of the passage of the RH bill.


Santiago manifested that the SWS survey showed that there is a clamor and demand to have the bill passed which provides emergency obstetric care in each province and city; full range of modern family planning methods in all accredited health facilities; the inclusion of family planning supplies as essential medicines; PhilHealth benefits for serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions such as HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and obstetric complications; mobile health care service vans in each congressional district; mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sex education starting at Grade 5; capability building of barangay health workers; employers' responsibilities where employers shall provide reproductive health services to all employees; Multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness; and Management of abortion complications so that women are not left to die.


“Although middle class and upper class women can afford to pay for their own contraceptives and other reproductive health care services, this is not the case for majority of Filipina women who belong to the lower economic strata, Santiago lamented.


She said that there is a need for budgetary allocation to increase access to reproductive health care information and services, sighting that poor women suffered for they cannot afford to buy their own contraceptives, do not have the money to pay for antibiotics to treat their reproductive tract infection, cannot afford to pay a Php2,500 ligation procedure, are unable to get pre-natal and post-natal checkups, or even afford to pay for a simple pap smear procedure.


“It has been almost a decade since the first RH bill was filed in Congress last December 2001, and that delay in the passage of the RH bill is detrimental to the health and lives of Filipinos especially women and children; thus, the passage of the RH bill delayed was a violation of the constitution promulgated by the state.


“Our health is a fundamental of human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights and conducive to living a life with dignity, therefore our constitution guarantees full respect for human rights,” the Senator ended. (Jason de Asis)


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