MANILA, Philippines – “Pigilan yung pagdami ng anak. Yun ba yun? Baka mali ako.” (Stop the increase of the number of children. Is that it? I may be wrong.)
Marife Zaragoza, 36, only hears about the Reproductive Health (RH) law from television. She doesn’t know it’s a law that took almost 14 years to pass. Nor does she know it’s a law that has been stalled in the Supreme Court since a year ago.
After this writer explained it to her briefly, she smiled and agreed with health advocates the RH law is needed. She’s tired of giving birth, she said, even if one more baby – her 5th child – is still on the way.
Her disposition on child birth today is a far cry from when she was 19. She was then living with her boyfriend, and very happy about being pregnant – so happy that even if she lost her first, unplanned baby to a miscarriage, it took only a month before she was pregnant again.
When they met, her boyfriend was a security guard. Today, 17 years after, he is still a security guard, only now he’s providing not only for Marife, but also for 3 daughters, a son, and the baby in her womb.
“Aminin ko hindi lahat maibigay [ko] sa kanila. Kaya nagdesisyon ako ngayon, nitong panghuli, gusto kong ma-ligate na,” Marife said. (I will admit I can’t give my children everything. That’s why I decided that after this last child, I want to be ligated already.)
She wanted a tubal ligation even before her youngest came, but she decided to stick to the calendar method instead. She admits missing count from time to time, so she’s heeding the advice of a health worker in Payatas to get ligated after what she swears will be her last birth.
Like Marife, many women in Payatas – considered the poorest barangay in Quezon City – get their RH information mostly from sources close to them: family members, friends, and barangay health workers.
These people are their greatest influencers when it comes to RH decisions, a recent survey showed.
The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) surveyed 621 women, or more than 10% of the households in Payatas, where annual population growth rate for the last 10 years is a whopping 15.23% – significantly higher than the city’s 3.64%.
While most of the respondents are Catholics (85%), the study said the Church, priests, nuns, or even pastors “virtually have no influence on the respondents.” About 70% of them do not believe that using contraceptives is a sin, and only 24% equated them with abortion.
For them, abortion can mean the following: pregnancy termination (95%), killing (94%), illegal (88%), against church teachings (86%), may cause complications that can kill women (86%). Most of them believe women go through abortion because of unwanted pregnancies. (READ: Abortion cases in PH rising: ‘RH law would be life saver’)
What women want
A majority or 75% of the respondents consider 1-3 children as ideal, but the actual average number of child birth among respondents is 3.4 or higher than the desired number.
While many know they should give birth in a clinic or hospital, the study showed 51% or most of the child births still happened at home, with 61% of them administered by midwives. (READ: Why Quezon City bans giving birth at home)
Almost all of the women see the importance of family planning, and they believe this service – including a steady supply of contraceptives – should be provided by the government. (READ: In Manila, women demand long-term birth control)
In fact, Payatas’ health centers are the primary source of contraceptives and other RH services. Without a steady supply, almost half or 53% of those who use contraceptives stop using one.
Needs in Payatas
Dr Antonieta Inumerable, head of the city’s health department, said half of their P450-M budget goes to manpower, and less than half goes to supplies and equipment.
Although the city government passed in 2008 an RH ordinance, their RH program competes with 22 other health programs for the rest of the budget. Only P14 million is allotted for the RH needs of Quezon City, when the city actually needs P200 million.
Still, Inumerable said without the controversial RH law, the city can get by.
“Actually, kahit wala yung RH bill, tatayo rin ang Quezon City dahil meron kaming sariling ordinansa na nauna pa nga ang Quezon City kaysa doon sa RH bill,” she said. (Even without the RH bill, Quezon City will be self-sufficient because we have our own ordinances that came even before the RH bill.)
The DSWP study recommended the development of a comprehensive RH program, the improvement of health facilities, and the provision of RH services in Payatas, especially for the young people.
DSWP, led by National Chairperson Elizabeth Angsioco, also called for the full implementation of the RH law.
“Family planning is a good investment for [the] government no matter the amount we talked about, it will yield many returns for the government,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Court is set to decide on the controversial law in April, during its summer session in Baguio. (READ: ‘Declare SC has no jurisdiction over RH challenge’) – Rappler.com