Women tell Bishops: “Respect our right to life.”

Women, mostly from depressed communities, together with other reproductive health advocates marched solemnly to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines this afternoon to impress upon the bishops the urgency of addressing the very high number of maternal deaths in the country.

“We are very seriously disturbed that the bishops issue statements about many issues but almost nothing on arresting maternal deaths. They say they are against the re-imposition of the death penalty but seem not to care about the ongoing massacre of poor Filipino women. Deprivation of life-saving RH services is like a death sentence hanging over the head of poor women.” says Elizabeth Angsioco , National Chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DWSP).

The march stopped at the bishops’ doorsteps with families and friends of women who perished because of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. The RH advocates wanted the bishops to know that these are senseless deaths because almost all could have been prevented if services contained in the RH Bill are adequately provided for. Angsioco lamented that “the CBCP’s stubborn rejection of the bill is a major reason why women die.”

The DSWP has about 40,000 individual women members mostly in poor communities.

“11 women mostly poor, die daily and yearly, about 400,000 women suffer complications because of lack of access to RH services. Why don’t the bishops care? In our group alone, we have lost quite a number of poor women and almost lost many more. Bishops stress the importance of the right of life. Women also have this right but they do not seem to give this equal importance.” Angsioco added.

The march also honored Olivia Morato, only 39 years old at the time of her death. One of 11 mothers who die daily due to complications of birth. She died after giving birth to her 10th child.

“For every women lost, a family is orphaned. Children become motherless. The country loses productive citizens. Even from a purely ulitarian point of view, this means: less human resource for the nation and more financial assistance for the orphaned family. The nation loses if these deaths are continuously ignored,” stresses Angsioco.

Guttmacher Institute studies show that an effective family planning (FP) program is cost-effective. For every peso spent on FP, the State can save three (3) to one hundred (100) pesos in addressing pregnancy and childbirth-related problems. Angsioco asserts that “an effective FP program can dramatically reduce maternal deaths by about 32%. This is because FP prevents mistimed, too early, too frequent and too late pregnancies—high risk pregnancies that have high probability of having complications. Since many of the women who suffer from these aer poor, government health facilities are tasked to care for them. Imagine the number of women’s lives saved, the number of children who will not lose their mothers, and the savings the State can have.”

Eleven candles were lit, memorializing the eleven women who die every day of reproductive health complications, the vast majority of which are preventable.

“Thus, we call on the bishops to also care for women and fully respect women’s right to life. If bishops are truly against the death penalty, they should be with us in working for the immediate passage of the RH bill into law”, Angsioco explained.

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