Women and their Families Deserve Justice . #UpholdRHLaw

This is a press release from Likhaan.

Fourteen to fifteen Filipino women die every day from pregnancy and childbirth. Sixty three percent of all married women don’t want to get pregnant anymore; of those with three children, the rate goes way up to eighty one percent. We have the highest teen birth rate among ten ASEAN countries—five percent annually.

These problems are well-documented*. They hit hardest the most vulnerable: women, the poor, the young. More than a decade of open and vigorous debates led to RA 10354, the Reproductive Health or RH law that mandates actions and solutions. Yet now we’re back to the debating arena. How many lives must be lost or ruined before we stop talking and start working?

Those who lost in the public, scientific and legislative debates are now in the Supreme Court raising the same false charges against RH. Moreover, they are asking that the law be indefinitely suspended—in effect, that the status quo of deaths and misery be maintained—while the nation listens again to their arguments in court. Their blend of arrogance and irresponsibility is frightening.

Anti-RH groups repeatedly claim that most contraceptives, specifically IUDs and hormonals, cause abortions and violate the 1987 Constitution which says that the State “shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” Yet for the last 26 years, these contraceptives have remained legal. Anti-RH groups have shied away from regulatory agencies to present and defend their evidence. It is easy to understand why: no reputable health or scientific body support their assertion. It is also easy to spot the absurdity of their claim: they believe that contraceptives can be weak enough to fail and allow a pregnancy and at the same time be strong enough to abort the same pregnancy. Then, after digging up all the theoretical mechanisms of IUDs and pills that somehow support their abortion claim, these same groups ignore the obviously non-abortive mechanism of condoms, tubal ligation and vasectomy, and simply oppose them on other grounds.

Religious beliefs best explain the actions and positions of anti-RH groups. They cannot use religious beliefs in court, so they simply renamed them as “natural law.” We hope the Supreme Court quickly sees through their ruse and prevent the establishment of a single article of faith over matters of sex, having children, contraception and family life.

We urge the Supreme Court to prevent further delays of the RH Law. We all know and accept the saying: Justice delayed is justice denied. Filipino women and their families, especially the poor, have suffered long enough. They too, deserve justice.

* The maternal mortality ratio is 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (NSO, 2011 Family Health Survey), and there are 2.398 M live births annually (UN Population Division, Medium variant, 2010-2015) which means around 5,300 maternal deaths occur per year. Data on married women who do not want any more children are from the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey of the NSO and ICF Macro. Data on teen (15-19) births in the Philippines and ASEAN countries are from the World Bank’s online database ( http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.ADO.TFRT ).