Press Release
March 4, 2011

Miriam: Pass RH bill now!

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago called for the urgent passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill following the rise in maternity-related deaths, unwanted teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection in the country, which could be curbed by implementing measures that promote and safeguard the reproductive health of persons, especially women.

Santiago is the only senator to have filed the Reproductive Health Act, aka SB No. 2378, in the Senate.

In a speech delivered today, 4 March 2011, by the senator to the students of the University of the Philippines Visayas in celebration of Women's Month, the senator said that women are the ones most affected by the delayed passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill into law.

"Access to reproductive health information and services are virtually denied to the poor, the less-educated, the adolescents, the rural, indigenous women, and women from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). By responding to the reproductive health needs of women, the RH bill affords women more employment, educational opportunities and ultimately, economic empowerment," Santiago said.

Citing the 2010 UNFPA State of the World Population report on the Philippines, the senator claimed that more than half of the pregnancies in the Philippines are unattended by health professionals.

"Child-birth related deaths could have been avoided, if more Filipino women had access to reproductive health information and health care" said Santiago.

The senator likewise stated that only three percent of the population does not use contraceptives because of religious belief.

"Unfortunately, the proposed law that could reduce the number of abortions is being opposed by fundamentalist groups. Increased access to information and services on modern contraceptive methods will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, eliminate the need for abortion, and prevent maternal deaths," the senator said.

According to the senator, the Filipino people have recognized the need for the passage of the RH bill as indicated in the 2008 national and Manila city surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

"According to the SWS national surveys, 71 percent of the national population and 86 percent of the population in Metro Manila are in favor of the passage of the RH bill. This clearly shows that there is a clamor and demand to have the bill passed," the senator said.

Santiago's bill provides for emergency obstetric care in each province and city; full range of modern family planning methods in all accredited health facilities; the inclusion of family planning supplies as essential medicines; PhilHealth benefits for serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions such as HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and obstetric complications; mobile health care service vans in each congressional district; mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education starting at Grade 5; capability building of barangay health workers; employers' responsibilities where employers shall provide reproductive health services to all employees; Multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness; and Management of abortion complications so that women are not left to die.

The senator lamented that although middle class and upper class women can afford to pay for their own contraceptives and other reproductive health care services, this is not the case for majority of Filipina women who belong to the lower economic strata.

"These poor women suffer because they cannot afford to buy their own contraceptives, do not have the money to pay for antibiotics to treat their reproductive tract infection, cannot afford to pay a P2,500 ligation procedure, are unable to get pre-natal and post-natal check ups, or even afford to pay for a simple pap smear procedure. All these examples show why we need the necessary budgetary allocation to increase access to reproductive health care information and services," Santiago said,

Santiago stressed that it has been almost a decade since the first RH bill was filed in Congress in December 2001, and that the delay in the passage of the RH bill is detrimental to the health and lives of Filipinos especially women and children. Therefore, delay in the passage of the RH bill is in violation of the Constitution.

"The Constitution guarantees full respect for human rights. Health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights and conducive to living a life in dignity," Santiago said.

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