Fight For Comprehensive Health Care For Women! Take Population Control Out Of The RH Bill!

GBRIELA WOMEN'S PARTY POSITION PAPER ON HB 4244

Prior to the current consolidated RH Bill 4244 now being debated in the Lower House, Gabriela Women’s Party filed HB 3387 framed on four cornerstones—that reproductive health care be pro-poor, rights-based, scientific, and comprehensive.

Pro-poor to mean that the voice of poor women be recognized, respected and promoted in matters related to reproductive health care. Note that only 25% of poor women who give birth are medically assisted unlike 92% of upper class women who have professionals attending to them during childbirth. Undeniably, poor women suffer most from maternal deaths.

Rights-based to mean that a woman’s claim to reproductive health be held as a right to survival and non-discrimination and recognized as such by the State. Also, that the crafting of any RH bill should have the participation of women, especially from the majority and the nation’s poor.

Scientific to mean that reproductive health care should benefit from science whether western, oriental, alternative or indigenous, and must ensure that reproductive health-related procedures, products and technologies are medically safe.

Comprehensive to mean that the State has the premier obligation in ensuring women’s full access to health care from womb to tomb. Ergo, reproductive healthcare must not be limited or reduced to contraception alone.

All these proclaim, to one and all, that Gabriela Women’s Party views the issue of reproductive healthcare from the perspective of marginalized and disadvantaged women. Hence any attempts by the State, or by any foreign or private interest groups, to put reproductive healthcare under the framework of a population control agenda that principally targets poor women will meet strong resistance.

Current House Bill 4244, popularly known as the RH Bill, has made positive strides for women. Gabriela Women’s Party has successfully included in the consolidated bill substantive provisions from its own bill. Among these are scientific studies to determine the safety and efficacy of alternative medicines and methods, reproductive health care development throughout one’s life cycle, other aspects of reproductive health to include mental health, HIV-Aids, breast and reproductive tract cancers, protection against chemicals injurious to women, also prenatal leaves for women workers and pro-bono services especially to low-income and indigent patients, especially to pregnant adolescents, etc.

On top of this, population or demographic targets were thrown out of the bill, and desired family size was made neither mandatory nor compulsory.

However, and Gabriela Women’s Party continues to oppose these, there are remaining provisions in the bill (sections 3(l), 12, and 25) that promote population control, especially section 12 that unabashedly states that family planning and responsible parenthood be integrated in anti-poverty programs.

Unguardedly, this provision can release the floodgate for the State to carry out its population control program under the guise of pro-choice and poverty alleviation. Also, allowing the Population Commission under section 25 to serve as coordinating body in implementing the bill once it becomes law underscores the State’s intent in pushing for population control.

These provisions must be deleted in the RH bill. Otherwise, the long saga of blaming the population, and specifically women’s wombs, for the rising poverty in the country continues. This wrong notion is made to persist while government and big business interests escape responsibility for the poverty they have caused this country for decades, and the ailing Philippine health system that the government has turned its back on.

Gabriela Women’s Party reiterates its stand for a comprehensive health care for women, not population control. Our people are suffering from poverty, they are not the ones causing it. To address poverty is to address landlessness, lack of industries, low wages, high prices, poor services. Our population is our nation’s resource. Stop blaming the poor and the women.

The women’s right to informed choice must not be imperiled by any designs for population control. State responsibility for healthcare must not be subsumed by private profit especially by big pharmaceutical companies just waiting in the wings.

Gabriela Women’s Party is aware that the fight for comprehensive healthcare for women is still a long haul. The obstacles can be staggering. But along with the women that it leads and with the increasing support of more and more people, it will not allow the women, especially the poor, to lose out in the end.

In the halls of Congress, Gabriela Women’s Party is committed to take population control out of the RH bill. But ultimately, it is the women’s organized, collective and determined action especially outside of Congress, plus the support of the general public and the basic masses, that can ensure and guarantee the exercise of women’s rights, reproductive health care included.

As it is, GWP’s rallying call remains:

Yes to a comprehensive and pro-poor reproductive health bill!No to population control!!