I’m looking forward to the final happy resolution of the stormy debates which the reproductive health (RH) bill controversy has been spawning. Disagreement and differences in opinions can be healthy up to a certain point, but when the debates generate more divergence and it already creates a yawning gap that cannot be bridged by objectivity and reason, then it doesn’t look good not only for the protagonists on both sides, but more so for the ordinary people for whom the bill is really intended.
It’s sad when friendships and even family relations are already affected when people take extreme, sometimes fundamentalist sides. When emotions are allowed to get the better of one’s perspective, the issues are beclouded and it’s difficult to make room for tolerance and objectivity.
I have openly expressed my support for the RH bill in this column, in the few panel discussions that I have been invited to participate in, and in my personal conversations with colleagues, family and friends. I’ve always come to the conclusion that both pro- and anti-RH bill proponents have the same end and goal in mind, but it’s just a matter of different perspective.
It’s also unfortunate when the debate turns to hair-splitting and hinges on inconsequential issues which have already been settled, like labelling contraceptives as abortifacients, or magnifying the potential of contraceptives to cause strokes and heart attacks. Although there’s a miniscule risk which has long been known, the benefits which contraceptives offer in terms of avoiding unwanted pregnancies and several other medical indications, far outweigh whatever risk they may have.
In any field of Medicine, there is never a perfect drug. All drugs are associated with some side effects. It’s important though that when the drug is weighed on the balance, it tilts heavily on the side of benefits and favorable effects rather than adverse effects.
Population control is definitely an urgent problem that has to be addressed. As the pro-RH proponents argue, the country has a rapidly growing population, with the Filipino women’s fertility rate “at the upper bracket of 206 countries” making the Philippines “the 12th most populous nation in the world today.”
With the real-life situation that our women are getting pregnant more frequently than their means could afford them to, the family is “blessed” or “burdened”—depending on which side is describing the situation—with more children which a big number of families mired in poverty, are in no position to feed and raise properly.
One cannot turn one’s head away from the fact that we have an alarming level of maternal and child mortality; with an average of 11 mothers dying daily from childbirth, one of the highest in Southeast Asia.
From where I see it, there is no question that we need a reproductive health policy that could implement clear, definitive and effective measures to control unplanned pregnancies; provided of course that these measures are medically safe and legal. Our constitution, which we all swear to uphold and defend, and invoke God’s help to do so, mandates that “the state shall promote without bias all effective natural and modern methods of family planning that are medically safe and legal.”
Sen. Edgardo Angara simplifies the issue in his column in Vital Signs, a newspaper for doctors and healthcare professionals, saying, “Let us not forget what truly lies at the heart of the issue: health.”
He cites WHO 2010 statistics which shows the health inequalities in the country. “Child delivery in urban areas are attended by skilled health personnel at a rate of 79 percent against only 41 percent in rural locales,” he writes.
Senator Angara explains that 92 percent of births among the highest quintile of the population is supervised professionally versus only 25 percent of births among the poorest quintile. “The result is a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 230 per 100,000 live births, based on WHO’s estimates. This was nearly three times the average of 82 for the Western Pacific Region, and the highest among Southeast Asian neighbors Brunei (13), Singapore (14), Malaysia (62) and Vietnam (150). We only did better than Cambodia (540).”
I agree with Senator Angara that it’s primarily a question of health; add in wellness of our mothers and children, if you wish. Whatever doctrinal convictions we have should be premised on this central issue. Doing it the other way around may not be the more rational way to look at it.
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TAGS: abortifacients, Child health, contraceptives, Maternal health, Population, Population Control, Reproductive Health Bill, RH bill, World Health Organization
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