In the President’s recent State of the Nation Address, he emphasized the urgent need for responsible parenthood to counter the country’s soaring population growth and the disturbing social consequences that have resulted from it.
The Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cabinet Cluster –which consists of 20 government agencies dealing with poverty and development — strongly endorses the President’s position.
As early as 20 July 2011, the Cluster had already pushed to make the Reproductive Health (RH) bill a priority legislative measure in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). Two days later, it passed HDPR Cluster Resolution No. 1, Series of 2011,Endorsing House Bill No. 4244, “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development, and for Other Purposes,” and Senate Bill No. 2865,”An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health and Population and Development’’ to the President.
Both Senate and House bills are very much in line with the goals of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and our country’s commitments to the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Human Development Cluster is deeply concerned with the long-term implications the absence of such a bill would have on poverty and development in this country. Already, our maternal mortality rate (MMR) has gone up to 221 per 100,000 live births, our worst MDG to date. We now have the worst poverty situation in the entire ASEAN 4region and, with one of the highest birth rates in Southeast Asia, the dubious distinction of being the 12th most populous country in the world.
As the 2006 Family Planning Survey has shown, 44% of the pregnancies of the poorest 10% of Filipino women are unwanted. 22% of these women hope to avoid pregnancies but do not use family planning; and at least41% do not use any contraceptives at all. Notably, there is a dividebetween the effects on the highest and lowest classes, as poor women,compared to their wealthier counterparts, tend to have the shortest birth intervals. Indeed, scholars estimate that the birth rate of the poorest 20% of the population is roughly double that of the national average.
With the passage of both bills, there is still hope of “improving maternal health, reducing infant and child mortality and eradicating extreme hunger and poverty,” the resolution explains. It underscores the need to supplement efforts already being made at the local,national and international levels.
If the RH bill is passed, it is the poor and the marginalized who would most benefit from greater access to healthcare services.Quite simply, the bill is rights-based, pro-health and pro-poor.
Our concern should be for the poor, whose voices have remained unheard and whose interests remain unprotected even now. Indeed, they should be the key players in determining their own futures and contribution to society: without a doubt, families with the desired amount of children, properly spaced, are more in control of their own children’s upbringing and education.
Responsible parenthood, in the final analysis, should always be about informed choice. The passing of this bill, then, offers us a critical opportunity to expand the choices of Filipinos in new and unprecedented ways.
The time has come, and the time is now. We sincerely hope our legislators will heed our call.
Lila Ramos Shahani
Assistant Secretary & Head of Communications
Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster
Photo via RHnow