While I was a student nurse, I distinctly remember conducting an interview with a woman in her mid-thirties who was unemployed and was married to a tricycle driver. They had 4 children, all born less than 3 years apart. Their house was in a dilapidated state. When asked about their family planning methods, I was dismayed to hear, although I was partly expecting it, when she said none. She said she tried to take pills before but keeps on forgetting about taking them and that her husband didn’t like wearing condoms. I asked her if she wanted to have more kids, to which she answered no; and if they’ve looked into the option of more permanent means of preventing pregnancies like a tubal ligation or a vasectomy for her husband but all she said was “No, my husband doesn’t like those.” And that was the end of it.
I’ve read a lot of write-ups and watched a lot of debates over the proposed Reproductive Health Bill, but at the end of it all, my vote still goes towards yes.
Some legislators say that the RH bill is not needed, since its components are already present in some existing laws. But even if it were the case, its implementation is clearly not felt by the public. Currently, there is an unrestricted access to contraceptives, but the issue is whether or not the poor families who need them the most, can afford it. Although I cannot give a statistical figure, I’ve talked to a lot of pregnant women in local health centres and in public hospitals, who expressed their desire for family planning, except that they don’t have access to them.
Another issue is that, the proposed budget allocation is apparently too big, and would be better spent for funding other medicines that treat real diseases. What they fail to see, is that maternal and child illnesses are real medical conditions too. Births that are spaced too closely increases the risk of mortality and morbidity for both the mother and child, and this could be solved by simple education and family planning.
I believe in providing long-term solutions to problems, and the way I see it, without the RH bill, more and more women will be having mistimed and unplanned pregnancies. These women will most likely be relying on government funded services like public education and public hospitals. Thus, it will only add burden to our already limited public resources in the long run.
Arguably the biggest hindrance to the passage of this bill, is the Catholic Church. Catholicism has been part and parcel of the Filipino culture for centuries, and challenging its views would be akin to talking to a brick wall. Despite the separation of State and Church, the truth is that the Church still exercises considerable influence over various political matters. The Church says that the RH bill promotes immorality by supporting contraception and abortion. I myself am a Catholic and was given a Christian education growing up, but I am in full support of the RH bill. Yes, the bill promotes contraception, but it does not legalize abortion. It only states that women suffering from post-abortion complications are entitled to medical attention, which is perfectly reasonable. The Church teaches us that we are stewards of our bodies; that we are responsible for taking care of ourselves. The RH bill promotes responsible parenthood, empowers the women and youth, provides heretofore inaccessible services to the poor, and educates people, ergo encouraging informed choice; all of which are steps toward being responsible human beings.