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Closing thoughts: Revisiting Contraception, Abortion, and Access to Maternal Health Services in the Philippines » Women's Courage

Closing thoughts: Revisiting Contraception, Abortion, and Access to Maternal Health Services in the Philippines

March 7th, 2013 by kenrique Leave a reply »

For my last blog post, I want to return to some of my previous discussions on the reproductive health care bill, abortion, and access to health care for pregnant women in rural, underserved communities, and sum up my final thoughts.

Philippine reproductive health bill and abortion

            As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the recently enacted Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 was a very divisive piece of legislation that faced strong opposition from the Catholic Church. In another blog post, I discussed the issue of abortion in the Philippines, and how it is criminalized and stigmatized within society. While the reproductive health bill aims to improve reproductive health and increase access to contraception among the nation’s poorest, there are still several issues that detract from improving reproductive health throughout the country. One issue is that the law continues to criminalize abortion, which is a major setback to women’s reproductive health.[i] Also, despite the health bill’s requirement for schools to provide sex education, schools can opt out of sex education because of religious grounds.i After looking into the bill further, I also found out that the bill’s supposed ‘universal access’ to contraception is limited to only 5 million households that are identified as ‘poor’ by the government.i

These setbacks are unfortunate, as they will likely hinder the potential to significantly improve reproductive health particularly for the nation’s poorest. As the Catholic Church continues to have a strong influence on Philippine health policy, I don’t see the nation’s stance on abortion changing anytime soon.  While I applaud the nation’s policymakers for recognize the importance of improving reproductive health, I hope the Philippines can implement the positive aspects of the bill and make tangible gains in increasing access to reproductive health services for impoverished women.

Improving access to maternal health care in rural communities

In my past blog posts, I have also discussed geography and low resources as barriers to health care for women living in isolated, rural parts of the Philippines. I want to discuss another project aimed at improving maternal health care by improving the local health system in its provision of maternal and child health services. “Project for Cordillera – wide strengthening of the local health system for effective and efficient delivery of maternal and child health services” is a joint program started by the Philippine Department of Health and the Japan International Cooperation Agency with the aim to reduce maternal and neonatal death. [ii] The project started two years ago as a pilot program in the provinces of Abra and Apayao, and during this pilot, the project trained 100 health professionals and supplied basic emergency obstetric care equipment to eight hospitals and nine rural health centers.ii This year, the project aims to upgrade community health centers to be adequate birthing centers by supplying additional equipment, training more health care providers, and increasing education to pregnant women on maternal health and giving birth.ii By improving the local maternal health system in underserved communities, the project aims to encourage women to give birth in community health centers, where the availability of more equipment and trained health care providers (as opposed to giving birth in a home) may help reduce the risk of maternal mortality.ii As the pilot program has just taken off, I hope that this project can be implemented on a larger scale to help bridge the gap between the demand for more maternal health services and the nation’s available resources and health care providers.

Conclusion

In summary, I think I have learned a lot about the complex issues involving reproductive and maternal health in the Philippines, from abortion to cervical cancer to contraception. I have also learned so much about the complicated relationship between society, government, and religion in this nation. While the Philippines has a long way to go in improving maternal and reproductive health especially among the nation’s poorest, the positive interventions I researched help me remain hopeful that the country is headed in the right direction.


[i] Pastrana, Dante. Philippine reproductive health bill continues to illegalize abortion. World Socialist Web Site. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/02/22/phil-f22.html

[ii] Bitog, Rubyloida. Groups urge pregnant women to give birth in health centers. Sun Star Baguio. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/local-news/2013/03/07/groups-urge-pregnant-women-give-birth-health-centers-271615

 

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3 comments

  1. Christina says:

    I enjoyed following your blog on reproductive health for women in the Philippines. I liked how you discussed a broad array of topics related to women and reproductive health, while also highlighting several creative interventions. “Project for Cordillera – wide strengthening of the local health system for effective and efficient delivery of maternal and child health services” sounds like a really interesting program and I think that it’s especially promising that it was created by the government. This suggests that the government does recognize that there is a problem and is looking for feasible solutions, rather than merely ignoring the issue. I am curious to see how laws and policy change in the Philippines in the coming years.

  2. Christina says:

    I enjoyed following your blog on reproductive health for women in the Philippines. I liked how you discussed a broad array of topics related to women and reproductive health, while also highlighting several creative interventions. “Project for Cordillera – wide strengthening of the local health system for effective and efficient delivery of maternal and child health services” sounds like a really interesting program and I think that it’s especially promising that it was created by the government. This suggests that the government does recognize that there is a problem and is looking for feasible solutions, rather than merely ignoring the issue. I am curious to see how laws and policy change in the Philippines in the coming years.

  3. Christina says:

    I enjoyed following your blog on reproductive health for women in the Philippines. I liked how you discussed a broad array of topics related to women and reproductive health, while also highlighting several creative interventions. “Project for Cordillera – wide strengthening of the local health system for effective and efficient delivery of maternal and child health services” sounds like a really interesting program and I think that it’s especially promising that it was created by the government. This suggests that the government does recognize that there is a problem and is looking for feasible solutions, rather than merely ignoring the issue. I am curious to see how laws and policy change in the Philippines in the coming years.

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