Last December, we all rejoiced at the news that president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, had passed a Reproductive Health Bill granting Filipino women access to birth control. Unfortunately, the law has been met with enough of the expected backlash to deter any kind of smooth sailing. After receiving petitions that challenge its alignment with the Constitution, Filipino Congress has suspended practice of the newborn bill.
The measure, if reimplemented, would cause an immense amount of relief amongst Filipino women, who experience unwanted pregnancies every year of their lives. Most of these women with up to sixteen children admit that they would prefer to have less children, especially those living in poverty. For example, Vilma Lopez lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manila and cares for her husband and thirteen children. Her teenaged son tells reporters, “It's very difficult because there's not enough food and its difficult to earn money and its difficult to keep up with the daily expenses.”
It’s clear that President Aquino’s bill would prove extremely helpful to poorer Filipino families, as it would “allow poorer Filipinos to have access to free birth control options as well as information on family planning and crucially it will make sex education a requirement in state schools.” It would provide OB/GYN services to these women so that they may receive proper treatment and the option to use contraceptives.
Of course, the negative response comes from those who support the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy. Bishop Gabriel Reyes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines argues, “It's against the moral law. For us, contraception is against the moral law of marriage.” Aquino Government
It’s extremely disconcerting to hear that although 70% of Filipinos support the bill, it is still facing impediments due to the fierce reaction from the Catholic Church. Aquino government, on the other hand, does not view this as a huge difficulty, and fully believes the bill will eventually pass permanently. Philippine presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said, “In a way its kind of a good thing because these challenges are being brought up just before we implement it once they're hurdled if they are hurdled then there will be no reason to stop it in the future, so its probably better that it be done now then at some later stage when it's fully implemented.”
I can’t really say I would ever view women being denied the right to controlling their own health “a good thing” but it is somewhat expected that this would be the case. We can only hope that Carandang is right and that the law will be supported in the end.
Source: Radio Australia
Photos via CNN and Balita.ph