RH law full implementation by November 30
MANILA, Philippines – The full implementation of the Reproductive Health law can be expected by November 30, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
“Once the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) certifies that the artificial contraceptives to be distributed by DOH are non-abortifacient, we can expect a full rollout,” Health Undersecretary Janette Garin said on Sunday, September 28, in a public health forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines.
“If the local government units permit, then we won’t have problems. If they won’t, then we’ll be partnering with private organizations,” Garin explained when asked whether contraceptives will be distributed among all LGUs.
The RH bill was finally signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III in 2012, after a 15-year struggle led by advocates and lawmakers.
In April 2014, the RH law was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, which then ordered the FDA to verify whether the family planning commodities to be used are safe and do not induce abortion.
In the Philippines, the government managed to cover the reproductive health needs of around a million women; however, approximately 6.6 million women still have unmet needs, according to Garin.
“The problem now is the bureaucracy: The whole process; from the SC decision; to the FDA studies; to the period of appeals, it’s taking much of our time,” she added. “We have nothing to hide, these are not abortifacient. I’m definite that it will be approved.”
The RH law requires government health centers to provide condoms and birth control pills for free, as well as for public health workers to undergo family planning training. It also mandates schools to teach sex education. The law also legalizes post-abortion medical care, but not abortion itself.
The law was and is still being met by myriad criticism, mostly coming from religious groups.
There has been an increase in the fertility rate among Filipinos aged 15 to 19, latest DOH statistics revealed, “whereas other age groups showed a decrease,” Garin said.
As of 2013, the fertility rate in this age bracket is 57%.
Garin attributed the large increase of teenage pregnancies to the youth’s lack of knowledge about safe sex and family planning.
“What is the government doing about it? Education is a big factor. But we have to be careful in implementing it, it should be a curriculum approved by DepEd and experts. So different government agencies are working together on crafting programs,” Garin said.
Another factor contributing to teenage pregnancy, according to Garin, is the discrimination and stigma attached to seeking information on reproductive health. “Many young people are afraid or shy to ask questions, so they just don’t.”
The Philippines has at least 500,000 induced abortions annually, DOH reported. The numbers could be higher as many cases go unreported. “Why does abortion happen? Mainly because of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies,” Garin stressed. “It’s a big problem we cannot solve overnight. The RH law intends to solve this.”
Garin called on the government and private organizations to conduct an intervention; otherwise, many young Filipinos will continue to lose their chances of going to school or enjoying their youth.
“Poverty has become an intergenerational trade because it started the wrong way. Young Filipinos are having children; when their children grow up, will they become teenage parents too?” Garin said. (READ: Young, poor, pregnant)
Meanwhile, Dr Gloria Enriquez-Fabrigas of the Tacloban City Social Welfare and Development Office echoed the need to educate Filipinos about reproductive health.
“In October, Tacloban will be partnering with the Philippine Pediatrics Society. They will visit schools to lecture about anatomy. Some teens don’t even know how they get pregnant,” Fabrigas said.
She also warned parents in disaster-stricken areas to supervise their children. “Most of the parents in Tacloban are engaged in cash-for-work programs, so their children are usually left at home alone or with other guardians. Some kids get involved with risky behaviors, while some become victims of incest. We need to prevent that, one way is through education.”
Fabrigas added that as of present, 509 families are still living in tent cities in Tacloban. They aim to finish transfering all families to transitional shelters by the end of October. – Rappler.com
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