RH advocates ask Palace: What and who is moral?

Published by rudy Date posted on April 16, 2009

This is a reaction to The Times “Special Report: The Church and Human Life” article “Mala-cañang’s pro-Life stand mainly a matter of morals” published April 12, 2009, reported by Angelo S. Samonte.

As reproductive health advocates, we cannot help but react to Press Secretary Cerge Remonde’s statement on President Gloria Arroyo’s stance on reproductive health. In that report, Sec. Remonde said that the first and main reason for Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s pro-Life stand on the reproductive health is morals and ethics. This made us wonder, how could one’s decision be morally and ethically upright if the basis of that decision ignores certain realities and scientific studies and merely to please a small but highly influential group of the Catholic hierarchy?

While we agree that natural family planning method is also effective if used faithfully, we strongly disagree with the promotion of the natural family planning method only. The 2006 Family Planning Survey revealed that 35.6 percent of women aged 15 to 49 are using modern artificial family planning methods while only 15.1 percent is using modern natural and traditional family planning methods. Arroyo government’s natural-family-planning-only program disempowers women and couples to exercise freedom to choose and to make informed decision.

Meanwhile, results of international and local studies have established that natural methods are not for everyone. For example, the standard days-method is effective only for women whose menstrual cycles fall between 26 to 32 days and require the unfailing cooperation by the husband as the couple must abstain from sex for 12 consecutive days during the woman’s fertile period.

RH bill promotes informed choice by making both artificial and traditional methods accessible to all. The couples can freely decide what method they prefer.

Time and again, survey after survey, results are the same—Filipinos wants modern family planning methods education and services. Pulse Asia Survey conducted in October 2008 revealed that a big majority of Filipinos (82 percent) thinks government should not only educate couples regarding modern methods of family planning but also provide them with services and materials on these methods. Same survey further revealed that 82 percent of Filipinos think government should teach couples about modern methods of family planning. In addition, exactly the same percentage says that it is the government’s duty to provide the people with knowledge, services and materials on modern methods of family planning.

Earlier, in September 2008, a nationwide survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed an overwhelming support for both family planning education and for passage of the reproductive health bill is very high among both Catholics and non-Catholics, 76 percent even wants to have family planning education for youth.

The results of SWS survey in the cities of Manila and Pa-rañaque conducted in December 2008 and February 2009 respectively showed almost the same result. Sixty four percent of Manileños agree that there should be a law that requires government to distribute condoms, intra-uterine devices and pills to people who want to avail of them. Meanwhile, 86 percent of the respondents said that the city should have a policy on reproductive health and family planning.

These surveys justify the need for government to provide the family planning and reproductive services they need.

We are fully aware that the reproductive health bill can be held hostage during election times that is why we, reproductive health advocates, laud Speaker Prospero Nograles for standing firm in saying that the House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2009 remains one of the priority measures in the House of Representatives. He even assured the public, through media interviews, that the Congress will vote on the measure before the session ends in June.

We are also happy with the statement of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that he will support “artificial methods” of family planning for as long as it will not destroy life.

It is worth mentioning that government offices such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Commission on Population, Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Education and Department of Science and Technology have openly declared their support on the reproductive health bill.

Groups from various sectors, like national and local NGOs, civic organizations, business, LGUs, faith-based organizations, the academe, youth, opinion leaders, and even international organizations, are continually coming out in the open and bravely expressing their support.

What then is moral and ethical? Who should the government believe? The voice of the majority of the Filipino people who are exposed to the stark realities of life, or the privileged few who refuse to see and acknowledge the conditions in which the many more live?

Despite confusing statements from various Malacañang officials, reproductive health advocates still laud the official position of the President that she will not meddle in the deliberations of the controversial reproductive health bill. We are happy to hear that the President will let her allies make their own decisions. After all, the essence of reproductive health is making informed choice.

Ms. Vigie Benosa-Llorin
Media Advocacy officer, PLCPD
Cell Number 0918-2936786]
Reference: Mr. Ramon San Pascual
Executive Director,
Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD)

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