MANILA,Philippines – Political candidates should take a firm stand on the reproductive health (RH) bill as more Filipinas die in childbirth owing to the lack of government policy on maternal health, re-electionist Senator Pia Cayetano said over the weekend.
Cayetano said public debates on the RH bill should not just be confined to whether it is right to distribute condoms in public or not.
The Nacionalista Party (NP) candidate came to the defense of Health secretary Esperanza Cabral who was criticized for allowing distribution of free condoms among buyers of fresh flowers during Valentine’s Day.
“I believe it’s a state obligation to provide contraceptives to the public,” she said at a briefing with the diplomatic press corps. “A lot of candidates are aware that women are dying because of (a) lack of maternal health care but they won’t say a word to offend the church. I think it’s a disservice to the Filipino people.”
Cayetano, current president of the coordinating committee of Women Parliamentarians of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on March 2 to raise the need for stronger women representation in politics to promote gender equality and women’s rights.
In its 54th session, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will conduct the 15th year review of the Beijing Declaration on Women’s Rights and the links with achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The events from March 1-12 are part of the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8.
MDGs are eight time-bound goals that seek to halve global incidence of poverty by 2015.
These include eradicating poverty and hunger, access to universal primary education, improve maternal health care, reduce child mortality, promote gender and women’s rights, address spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria, promote a sustainable environment and global cooperation for development.
Cayetano said the Philippines has been lagging behind in five of these eight MDGs, particularly maternal health care, due to the lack of an official reproductive health policy. The Philippines is also failing in poverty reduction, reducing child mortality, access to primary education, and sustainable environment.
She said at least 11 women die every day while giving birth due to the lack of a law that provides for a state policy on prenatal health care, family planning and an overall reproductive health program.
“The Philippines has also very little data on cases of HIV/AIDS and our experts are warning it has reached an epidemic proportion. But this administration refuses to recognize the problem,” said Cayetano.
She said the government should encourage public discussions on reproductive health bill due to the social stigma that it will promote promiscuity among youth and will encourage abortion.
“Reproductive health bill does not promote promiscuity. It merely teaches young adolescents to be aware of their sexual development in a scientific way,” said Cayetano, stressing that pornography on the Internet and other media promotes promiscuity especially among the youth.
“Others say reproductive health bill will promote abortion?…It won’t. It only provides women with greater freedom of choice to decide how many children they will have through family planning.” she said.
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