DOH reiterates support for couples’ informed choice

Published by rudy Date posted on March 18, 2011

MANILA, Philippines (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) continues to rally behind giving couples an informed choice in choosing the number, spacing, and timing of their children.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said this during the National Conference of Catholics for Reproductive Health Thursday, held at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

“The stand of the Aquino government on the enactment of responsible parenthood and reproductive health remains consistent. As we all know, the policy of the government is geared towards enabling couples and individuals to choose the number, spacing, and timing of their children based on the demands of responsible parenthood and informed choice,” Ona said.

“And, as we have always maintained, the focus of our efforts are the very poor Filipinos who do not have access to health services,” the health chief said.

Ona cited statistics from the National Health and Demographic Survey 2008: the Fertility Rate of women who belong to the poorest 20 percent, is 5.3 yet their desired fertility rate is 3.3.

This means that couples who belong to the very poor actually want to have fewer children but they are unable to accomplish this because of lack of access to family planning services, he explained.

Contrast this with the fertility rate of women belonging to the richest 20 percent of the population. They have an actual fertility rate of 1.9, and a desired fertility rate of 1.6, Ona said, noting that these women have the knowledge and access to reproductive health services which their poorest counterparts often do not have.

Ona commended the legislative move of advocates and champions in the Congress in advancing the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Bill (HB 4244) at the House of Representatives and the other version in the Senate.

The health chief however said “he respects cultural diversity and the Constitutional guarantee on religious freedom.”

“That is why we are engaging with the Catholic hierarchy to find common ground not only in principles but, more importantly, in actions. We are also bent on engaging other religious groups on the issue.

At the moment, however, Ona noted the Commission on Population renewed mandate to advance the responsible parenthood program not only focusing on the promotion of scientific natural family planning but also on modern methods.

“Pending the national policy, we can rally behind these priority health agenda to ensure that men and women are given equal opportunities to exercise their reproductive rights,” Ona said.  –Manila Bulletin

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