A RECENT study by women’s advocates prompted them to call on the Supreme Court to uphold the Reproductive Health Law of 2012, kept from implementation by a temporary restraining order (TRO), saying that there is an urgent need for maternal health programs.
The study showed that women “widely accept” the use of non-traditional family planning methods such as contraceptives to control the number of their offspring. However, “lack of basic needs” kept families from practicing their knowledge on reproductive health (RH).
“The big majority of women want to plan their families and depend on government sources for commodities. However, because of the erratic supply of contraceptives, they are unable to do this correctly,” said Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) National Chairperson Elizabeth Angsioco.
The Supreme Court issued a TRO in 2013 on Republic Act 10354 or The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, answering to petitions claiming that the law offends religious belief and encourages abortion.
The law requires the national government to provide reproductive health care, information and supplies while prioritizing marginalized beneficiaries.
The baseline survey “AlaTsambasa RH: Kalagayan, Suliranin, at Panawagan ng mga Kababaihan sa Payatas,” conducted by the DSWP found a mismatch between beliefs and practices among women of reproductive age in what is considered the poorest barangay in Quezon City.
The right age for pregnancy is 22 years old according to almost 80 percent of 621 respondents from Payatas B aged 15 to 49 years old representing 10 percent of households. But the same study showed that more than 46 percent of them got pregnant at 16 to 20 years old, 38 percent at 21 to 25 years old and 4 percent above at 13 to 15 years old.
“Rising teenage pregnancy is a problem,” said Quezon City Health Office Head Dr. Antonieta Inumerable.
Angsioco said this is because of “early sexual initiation and their lack of RH education.”
Quezon City is the most populous city in the Philippines, with a young population of 3 million residents at 2.92 percent annual growth rate (15.23 percent in Payatas). It comprises one-fourth of Metro Manila and houses 15 government and 32 private hospitals. Maternity clinics total 19.
Most respondents believed that births must be in a clinic or hospital (94 percent) and attended by a doctor (84 percent) or midwife (51.5 percent). But less than 1 percent of all their births were attended by medical doctors, 61 percent were attended by midwives and 46 percent by nurses, while 4.3 percent by their relatives or neighbors. Half of them gave birth at home and the rest at public hospitals or clinics.
“Death is a reality in Payatas,” said Angsioco, citing 422 cases of complications during childbirth and 298 cases of maternal deaths in the community.
To address this, Inumerable said the City is building lie-in clinics in various areas. Quezon City allotted P450 million for health projects, from which P14 million is given to reproductive health programs. Currently, it needs about P200 million for most services, which cater to women and youth.
Since 2008, Quezon City has been enforcing a Population and Reproductive Health Management ordinance to fund family planning programs but Inumerable said that “funds are not enough for a growing population.”
Angsioco said, “The implementation of the RH law at the national level is critical. LGUs will not be able to do much without the national government.”
Inumerable added that the RH Law would still be of help to local governments even with an existing RH ordinance. She said that it increases funds for maternal health services.
The study also showed that people have a limited understanding of reproductive health. A validation workshop disproved the 64 percent to 93 percent respondents who said that they have enough knowledge on the reproductive system. Half of the respondents said that they have adequate knowledge of health vital during and after pregnancy, while the other half said that they need more information on unhealthy behavior and high-risk pregnancy.
“Respondents get their RH information from sources they are close with and trust at home—parents, family members and partners; in school—teachers; in the community—barangay officials, friends.” By contrast members of the religious hierarchy have “virtually no influence” on the respondents, the study said. This is likewise for social media platforms, to which they do not have access, except for television. They are also aware of women’s rights but are not familiar with the law’s content.