Women to President Aquino: Listen to us, pass the RH Bill now

“We are the ones affected with the absence of contraceptives and other reproductive health services in our health centers, not the men in white robes alleging to know what’s best for us”, lamented the women from grassroots communities.

Representatives from various grassroots women’s groups united as they appealed to President Aquino to make possible the passage of the comprehensive reproductive health bill languishing in Congress for 16 years.

It is not easy for these women to relate their personal experiences in front of media.

The women expressed concern that the President is trying to appease the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP) at their expense with his recent pronouncements that he wanted to include provisions agreed by the Palace and the Church in the bill.

Nenita Migano of Caloocan City , a 49 year old, devout Catholic has five children. She asked the President that he should listen to poor women and not only to bishops who do not experience pregnancy, giving birth and the problems of being poor. It is important for poor women to have the right information on family planning. “Aside from information, it is equally important for us , poor women to have access to free contraceptives because we cannot afford to spare money from our meager income to buy contraceptives m even if we want to use these. She stressed that “we are totally dependent on free contraceptives supplies from our health centers. We need the government to allocate budget for reproductive health services we need”.

The president said “we are his bosses. He promised to listen to us. We call on him today to make true his promise. He should listen to us and not allow the bishops to unduly influence his decisions on matters related to our lives, ” as Migano concluded her story.

Elizabeth Angsioco, National Chairperson at the Democractic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) called on the President to exert political will on the matter. Angsioco said that the president have the vast powers of the Office of the President. He can do things to address women’s RH needs and facilitate the passage of a rights-based, pro-poor, pro-women comprehensive RH bill into law.

First, even while the bill is still pending,adequate budgets should be provided for family planning and other needed RH services. To get the real score, he should dialogue with the women who are really affected by the issue. He should not allow a watered down version of the bill because the ones in Congress goes beyond family planning. While it is important , others such as education and services that will truly save lives are equally crucial.

Lastly. the most immediate, certify the bill as urgent. His clear endorsement of the bill will make its passage highly possible, Angsioco added.

If we are to look back on the President’s promises, he stated in his own words , that …

“my administration will fully support the crafting of a firm policy that will address the serious problem on population. It will be based on the idea of responsible parenthood: imposing on parents that they should play a key role in ensuring that each and every child they bring into this world has the opportunity to lead a good life, and educating them about the means with which to plan their families so they can create families based on their ability to sustain their needs. In the process of providing a range of options and information to couples, both natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented.”

We will just have to gently remind the President on his words that the Responsible Parenthood bill contains the education and services that women of all ages need in reproductive health care . It is not just a matter of natural family planning that the former President Arroyo espoused in the Responsible Parenthood program. It should not only reflect the religious sectors.

Responsible Parenthood should contain the crucial elements of the Reproductive Health bill now being deliberated in the Senate and House of Congress.

Here are twitter reactions on the RH Bill