Philippines Government Must Support Reproductive Health Law

“Women in the Philippines have lacked autonomy over their bodies for decades. The overwhelming political power of the country’s Catholic church leaders — and the government’s acquiescence to many of their demands — has resulted in reproductive health care restrictions so severe they amount to human rights violations,” Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights, writes in The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” However, “[w]e hope this is beginning to change at last,” with the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which was “signed into law by President Benigno Aquino in December and [is] in the process of implementation,” she notes, adding that the law “has the potential to bring modern contraception to all Filipina women, and with it hope that thousands of maternal deaths will be prevented, and families and communities will rise out of devastating poverty.”

“The law represents significant progress, but it is far from ideal,” Upreti continues, adding, “It fails to legalize all contraceptives, sanctions ideological bias in hospitals and reinforces the legal status of human embryos.” Because of opposition to the law from the “Catholic hierarchy and their allies,” “[i]t crucial for the government to defend it ferociously on behalf of the countless women whose ability to plan their families would be devastated should opponents prevail,” she writes. “Ultimately, the true potential of the act rests with the president and the policymakers who brought about its passage. Together, they must exert the political will necessary to overcome religious opposition to women’s fundamental human rights and fully implement the act,” she states (3/19).

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