The RH bill in the Philippines would would make contraceptives available to people who can’t afford them. The Catholic Church has been battling this measure for years. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has just released a five minute video entitled “RH Bill in the Philippines”. Please watch this 5 minute UNFPA news report: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/7137 Quite frankly, to those who don’t partake in “blind faith”, the Church attorney’s arguments against the bill appear non-sensical. Pay attention to her words on what really should be called an abortion crisis in her country.
The accompanying information from UNFPA states that out of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2008, 1.9 million were unplanned. About 11 women die daily as a complication of pregnancy or childbirth which, according to UNFPA, could be reduced by one third if there were access to family planning.
The video shines light on the continued unmet demand for family planning services particularly among the poorest. This is true not only in the Philippines but worldwide. I recently wrote about Population Action International’s www.empty-handed.org short video which features women who seek but don’t find. “The pills were out of stock”.
Human numbers do matter. The Philippine population has tripled since 1965 standing now at 93.6 million. At current growth rates, the country will have 100 million people by 2015 and 140 million by 2040. The total fertility rate, i.e. children per woman, is 2.98 but poor women have an average of six children, two more than they desire. UNFPA states that without concrete steps to check this trend, the country is unlikely to achieve its Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, education, and maternal health.
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So why did I entitle this article “Hooray for UNFPA”? Because it brought a crucial issue to the fore. Religious opposition to women’s health and especially to all of what reproductive health entails, and to gender equality in general is an under- emphasized worldwide phenomenon. I believe that UNFPA’s positon is very reasonable and necessary. It seeks to engage religious leaders and followers where there are common interests. Thoraya Obaid, the just retired Executive Director of UNFPA, emphasized finding common ground with all religions and in so doing made of UNFPA the U.N. humanitarian agency supported by more countries than any other .
But I submit that you can’t compromise too much. Human rights are human rights no matter what! Reason with, explain, cajole, push: all to the good. But at the end of the day, take the side of women.