UN weighs in on RH Bill
MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations warned that failure to pass a controversial birth control law in the Philippines could reverse gains in development goals amid stiff opposition from the powerful Catholic Church.
The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives in a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic and which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.
Ugochi Daniels, country representative from the UN Population Fund, said she remained "cautiously optimistic" that President Benigno Aquino's allies who dominate the House of Representatives could muster the numbers to pass the bill on Tuesday after 14 years of often divisive debate.
"What is important now is to highlight the urgency of the bill," Daniels said in a statement on Sunday, August 5.
Maternal deaths will continue to rise
Unless the bill is passed, she said maternal deaths in the Philippines would continue to rise with more and more women getting pregnant at a young age without the proper health care and access to key reproductive information.
Between 2006 and 2010, the maternal mortality rate increased to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births, from 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 2005, according to the government's 2011 Family Health Survey. (Read: 221 mothers die while giving birth in PH)
"I think we've gone from 11 (maternal deaths) a day to between 14 and 15 a day now. And unfortunately, most of these are poor women," she said.
The UN Population Fund was "very concerned" about the rising number of deaths, she said, and noted that even in war-torn Afghanistan the trend was decreasing, while the World Health Organization on Friday noted that the law is an issue of reproductive health and responsible parenthood, and “should not be misused as a political tool.”. (Read: WHO on RH bill: No politics, just facts)
'Stop failing our young'
She urged Philippine lawmakers to quickly pass the bill and "stop failing our young".
"This is now the time. We have been waiting for a very long time," Daniels said.
The UN's call came as Catholic priests and nuns led thousands in a protest rally in Manila Saturday to urge lawmakers to scrap the bill. (Read: Catholics clash over controversial RH bill)
Besides free contraception, it would also give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals, while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage licence.
The UN has said a lack of education and access to condoms has led to an explosion of HIV infections in the Philippines, which it said is now one of seven countries in the world where cases have risen by 25 percent or more since 2001. - Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse
In these changing times, courage and clarity become even more important.
Take discussions to the next level with Rappler PLUS — your platform for deeper insights, closer collaboration, and meaningful action.
Sign up today and access exclusive content, events, and workshops curated especially for those who crave clarity and collaboration in an intelligent, action-oriented community.
As an added bonus, we’re also giving a free 1-year Booky Prime membership for the next 200 subscribers.
You can also support Rappler without a PLUS membership. Help us stay free and independent by making a donation: https://www.rappler.com/crowdfunding. Every contribution counts.