Women’s Group to P-Noy: Include Women and Other Churches on RH Dialogues

Following reports of the recent resumption of dialogue between Malacanang and the Catholic hierarchy on reproductive health (RH) and responsible parenthood (RP), the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) reiterates its call on the President to include in the dialogues community and women’s groups so the President will know the urgent need for the bill to pass from actual experiences of ordinary women lacking access to RH services. “Again, men discuss our ovaries in our absence,” Elizabeth Angsioco, DSWP National Chairperson stresses.

Moreover, according to her, there are other religions in the country that also deserve to be heard. They have their own valid sentiments on the issue. “The President should be reminded that the country is not 100% Catholic. It is only right that he listens to other religious leaders,” said Angsioco.

DSWP is a national group of 300 community-based organizations strongly advocating for the passage of HB 4244 or the “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2011” and its counterpart bill in the Senate.

Reports on the recent dialogue say that the Catholic leaders want RH education to start later and emphasis on values formation and being responsible be included in the bill. Angsioco stressed that to start RH education in Grade V (as provided by the Bill) when pupils are ordinarily aged 11 is just right. “It is the onset of adolescence when young people experience significant physical and emotional changes and they should be prepared for these. More importantly, menarche among girls starts at around this age. Girls must understand the significance of this stage if we want to prevent adolescent pregnancy which comprises 30% of the country’s annual pregnancies” she says. Citing HB 4244 provisions, Angsioco asserted that RH education is age-appropriate and emphasis on values and responsible behavior are listed as required topics. “Those opposing the bill on the grounds of age-appropriateness and values integration need not worry.”

DSWP however is concerned that these consultations with the Catholic hierarchy may create further delays in the process of enacting HB 4244 into law. This might be one of the many dirty tactics of the anti-RH groups to derail the bill’s passage.

Angsioco further emphasized, “The Palace statement that they are going to submit a new bill is quite disturbing. I do not see any need for this because responsible parenthood concerns are already integrated in the present consolidated version. In fact, the bill was already further amended to accommodate some of the concerns of the bishops. The RH bill should be subjected to the vote come resumption of Congress in May” she ended.

Read more resources about the RH Bill.