Long Journey Towards Reproductive Health

Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine President, signed an executive journey order on January 9, 2017. Calling for universal access and modern family planning methods. It also demand that the Reproductive Health Law be implement quickly.

The RH law, popularly known, was pass in 2012. However, it was suspend by the Supreme Court after objections. From religious groups who claimed that the law violated freedom of religion.

Even his most ardent critics were happy to accept Duterte’s order. Human Rights Watch called it a bright. Spot in the administration’s otherwise terrible human rights record due to its abusive war against drugs. Apart from encouraging family planning, the RH law includes wide-ranging provisions. Regarding emergency obstetrical care, sex education and maternal and child healthcare.

The fact that these seemingly innocuous health matters have to be confirm. Attests to how contested the Philippines reproductive health issues are. Luis Cardinal Tagle of Manila, Manila’s archbishop reiterated the Church’s opposition to any law. That encourages both natural and artificial family planning methods, just one day after Duterte signed his executive order.

Both Morally And Politically Contentious Journey

The ongoing debate can seen as a continuation of the long journey of the Philippines towards reproductive health. It has made into a political issue and moral issue by many actors. It also bound to the Church’s long-standing involvement in politics in a country. Where at least 80% of the population are Catholic.

The Catholic Church is oppose to artificial contraception and population control. This opposition extends beyond the Philippine borders. The Church’s opposition to population control and artificial contraception made dogma by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae (1968). It has been confirm by subsequent popes.

Initially, it didn’t appear that the Church’s position had much impact on Philippine policies. Ferndinand Marcos, the then-president of the Philippines, established a Population Commission to try. And control population growth just one year after Humanae Vitae.

In 1973, Marcos supported a new constitution that required the government to achieve and maintain the highest levels of population most conducive for the national welfare.

Situation Journey Changed

The situation changed in 1980s when people rebelled against Marcos corrupted and authoritarian government. This, however, should be note, was ultimately ineffective in its population control efforts. The 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, which deposed Marcos and forced him into exile, was led by the Church.

Cory Aquino was much more accommodating to the Church’s wishes as the new president. The life of the mother and the life for the unborn child from conception were the core principles of the 1987 Cory Constitution. It also omitted any reference whatsoever to population control.

The Church would be rule by a succession of presidents. Gloria Arroyo, another beneficiary of the Church-backed revolution, would be the most vocal. It would become state policy to only promote natural family planning methods. This was despite the scientific consensus that such methods are not effective and the fact that most Filipinos support artificial contraception.

The Church’s acceptance of an RH law was not a factor in the steady growth of support. The first of many RH bills filed in Congress was in 1999. Ironically, the law was pass by Cory’s son Benigno Aquino III, Arroyo’s successor.

Duterte was the 2016 successor to Aquino and was vocal in support of reproductive health. He stressed the importance of the RH law in his first national address. So that couples, especially those who are poor, can make informed decisions about the number and spacing for their children, he said.

Increasing HIV Prevalence And A Growing Population

Despite the politics of the RH Law, the Philippines rationale for it is quite clear. The rate of population growth is still very high. It is predicted that the Philippines will have 105 million Filipinos by 2017, a remarkable tripling of 31.7 million in just 50 years.

Economists agree that poverty is complex. However, rapid population growth and high fertility rates, particularly among the poor, exacerbate poverty. In 2012, thirty economists from the University of the Philippines confirmed the RH bill’s role in population growth, and thus in poverty reduction.

The alarming rise in HIV infection rates makes the Philippines the only country with a growing HIV prevalence. Condom distribution and promotion are based on HIV prevention. Anti-RH advocates argue that this would encourage immorality poker pelangi.

Moving Forward Journey

Some observers note that the Church’s influence in Philippine politics is decreasing, citing the failure of the RH law to be stopped. Despite its diminished power, the Church remains an important political actor.

The Department of Education, responding to Church pressure, announced it would not allow condom distribution in schools in the same month as Duterte’s executive order. In an effort to placate the Church, the RH Law also includes natural methods as well as responsible parenting in its language and mentions religious convictions seven times.

Does the Church have any chance of changing its position? Pope Francis recent declaration that contraception is a lesser sin than abortion, at least in Zika cases, has given some hope. His statement was viewed as a change of tone, but not in substance, and it is rightfully so.

It is highly unlikely that the Church will reconsider its position judging by the latest rhetoric from the Philippine bishops, which labels contraceptive use immoral.

However, it is encouraging to see two presidents, who are from opposing political parties, support reproductive health. This raises the possibility that it will become a post-political and post-ecclesiastical problem.

It’s been a long road, but there is reason to believe that the RH law will be fully implemented in the Philippines. This will bring with it the desperately needed HIV control programs and population growth.