After several decades of controversy and public debate, the government is finally gearing towards the full implementation of our country’s Reproductive Health Law.
Last year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 12 calling for universal access to modern family tools and intensifying the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act or RH Law.
Despite the seemingly anti-women remarks of President Duterte and his recent irresponsible condom joke, the signing of the executive order is still a welcome progress on the long-standing struggle of the Filipino women for quality and affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare.
But a few days after the order was publicized, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines head, Archbishop Socrates Villegas expressed his dismay and reiterated the Church’s belief that contraception “corrupts the soul”. Even Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle backed the CBCP’s statement, saying that the Church only supports natural family planning.
Struggle against inequality
The age-old feud between the church and the state on sex education and contraception became one of the major setbacks on the development of the Filipino women’s reproductive health. Back in 2013, the Supreme Court issued a temporary suspension on the RH law implementation, following objections from religious groups that alleged the law is unconstitutional.
The government’s indecisiveness and the church’s medieval perspective on reproductive health is feudalism in action. It’s as if on the subject of sexual and reproductive health, the women’s stand is unnecessary.
A woman’s ability to control her own body and access the health services she needs is a fundamental right. The systematic denial of affordable access to modern methods of contraception only leads to more cases of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and increased exposure of women to HIV/AIDS.
Downside of the policy framework
Although the RPRH law promises poor women access to contraceptives and family planning programs, it is still far from being comprehensive.
Gabriela Women’s Party, a sectoral party committed to promoting the rights and welfare of marginalized Filipino women, challenged the Reproductive Health Law to go beyond population control.
When the then Reproductive Health Bill was being grilled on its 2nd reading, the Gabriela Women’s Party voted ‘yes with reservations’, stating that its population control agenda is “anti-women and anti-poor”.
A reproductive health law that blames a growing population for the rising poverty is indeed problematic. Not only does it blame women’s wombs, it also fails to address inequity and inaccessible social services.
Understanding the women’s movement will help polish the flawed policy framework of the Reproductive Health law. By being one with the masses of women burdened by the neoliberal agenda of healthcare policies, we will realize the significance of reproductive choice and mass-oriented public health agenda.
Northup, N. (2013, January 17). Huffington Post: The Fight for Women’s Reproductive Rights Can’t Just Be About Winning or Losing the Abortion War. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.reproductiverights.org/press-room/huffington-post-fight-womens-reproductive-rights-winning-losing-abortion-war-Roe
Brodie, Janet. Contraception and Abortion in Nineteenth-Century America. Ithaca, NY:
Cornell Univ. Press, 1994.
Solinger, Rickie. The Abortionist. New York, NY: The Free Press, 1994.