Press Release
August 13, 2010


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, widely acknowledged as an international law authority, filed her version of the controversial reproductive health bill, citing the state's commitment to a number of treaties and international human rights agreements to which the Philippines is a party to, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action (ICPD-POA), the Beijing Platform of Action (BPA), and the Millennium Development Goals, specifically Goal 5 (MDG 5).

Article 12 of the ICESCR recognizes the right of everyone to "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health."

"The right to health is understood not just as a right to be healthy, but as a right to control one's own health and body, including sexual and reproductive freedom," Santiago said.

According to the ICPD-POA, "Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive health system and to its functions and processes. Reproductive health therefore implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capacity to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how to do so."

The CEDAW, in particular, mandates state parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care. It also calls upon the state parties to prioritize the prevention of unwanted pregnancies through family planning and sex education, and to reduce maternal mortality rates.

"Within the context of the Constitutional provisions on women's right to health and the State's international commitments as embodied in various human rights instruments, the State is bound to address reproductive health issues," Santiago said.

The Family Planning Survey (FPS) conducted by the National Statistics Office in 2006 revealed that for every 100,000 live births in the Philippines, 162 women die during pregnancy and childbirth or shortly after childbirth. It was also reported that although this is a 22 percent decrease rate from the 1990 baseline, the decrease of the current maternal mortality ratio is still far from the 53 deaths MDG target for 2015.

"Experts from around the world now acknowledge that almost all maternal deaths could be prevented with appropriate care. Yet in the Philippines today, less than half of all deliveries take place with the assistance of a skilled birth attendant," Santiago said.

Santiago's Senate Bill No. 2378 compels the state to guarantee universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health services, methods, devices, supplies, and relevant information on the matter.

"If we are seriously committed to eradicate poverty, pursue sustainable development and improve our quality of life, then the issue of population cannot be ignored," Santiago said.

Santiago, however, emphasized that her bill does not dictate any form of population control.

According to the BPA, "reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so."

"Parents should be free to choose which form of family planning best suits them," she said.

The FPS reported that half of Filipino women who are of child-bearing age were using a family planning method. An estimated 35.9 percent of these women were using modern methods, while 14.8 percent still use traditional methods.

Santiago also challenged the bill's opponents who used scare tactics saying that the RH bill "promoted abortion."

"Read the bill first. The bill is not pro-abortion; it is pro-life. It ensures that women who need care for post-abortion complications shall be treated and not left to die," Santiago explains.

According to Santiago, the passage of this bill is a step towards the attainment of the Constitutional guarantee of full respect for human rights.

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