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Culture Wars

After a Decade of Debate, the Philippines Passes Reproductive Health Bill

Article by Emily Rauhala, Dec. 17, 2012 (zum Original-Artikel)

Change, at last. After a deeply divisive, decadelong battle, the Philippines’ legislature on Monday approved a landmark piece of legislation that will allow the government to provide basic funding for sex education and contraceptives. The Reproductive Health Bill, which is expected to be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, was introduced more than 10 years ago, but languished in the legislature because of strong opposition from the Catholic Church and its allies in government.

Only five years ago, many thought the bill would never pass, that the country was too divided, that the church was too strong. But supporters fought on and found an ally in President Aquino, who took office in 2010. “The Reproductive Health Bill will have profound implications for improving the health and lives of women throughout the country,” wrote Human Rights Watch’s Carlos Conde in a statement. “The Aquino administration should be credited for having the political will to muster support for the bill in Congress despite the threat of a political backlash.”

The Philippines, a majority Catholic nation of 96 million, has long been an outlier in terms of reproductive rights. Over the past 20 years, while most of Asia — and indeed, much of the world — embraced voluntary family planning, the country cracked down on contraception. Though poll data suggest the majority of Filipinos believe in birth control, the country’s Catholic Church contends that the use of modern methods of contraception, such as condoms and birth-control pills, is an affront to God’s will and a threat to public health. Likening condoms to abortion, they have vigorously opposed any attempt to broaden reproductive rights. In a 2008 interview, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, a vocal anticontraception campaigner, told me that women ought to avoid sexual intercourse on all but their least fertile days. Family-planning advocates, he said, were merely “propagandists of a culture of death.”

Over the years, that message moved from the pulpit to the political sphere, spawning some of the world’s most restrictive laws on birth control and abortion. In year 2000, for instance, a mayoral edict saw birth control effectively banned from Manila’s public clinics, making condoms the purview of the city’s moneyed classes. The ban coincided with a Bush-era move to cut funding to overseas organizations focused on family planning, drastically cutting the availability of affordable contraceptives. In Manila, those who could afford it bought birth control at private clinics; many poor women went without. It is not uncommon to meet women in Manila who say they hoped to have two children, but because of a lack of affordable family planning, now have 6, or 8, or 10. A 25-year-old woman named Sheryl told me in 2008 that she wanted two kids, but had five. Three survived infancy in Manila’s slums.

Indeed, the Philippines is a case study in how restricting reproductive rights hurts public health. The country’s decades-long contraception crackdown has stigmatized safer sex practices, heightening the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and leading to millions of unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancies. Decades worth of research shows that nutrition, health and educational opportunities drop when a family outgrows its means. Yet the U.N. Population Fund estimates that half of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the country each year are unintended. A third of these pregnancies are aborted, often in unsafe conditions. (The Philippines has a blanket ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life. The criminalization of abortion often forces women to turn to back-alley abortionists.) A 2010 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, based in New York City, estimated that in 2008 alone, 90,000 Filipino women sought medical treatment for complications from abortion and about a thousand died.

The Reproductive Health Bill is no panacea. It does not address the country’s abortion laws. Also, the bill alone is not enough to guarantee reproductive justice. Attitudes must change too. As long as there is stigma surrounding the use of contraception, people are at risk. The bill’s detractors, including the architect of the Manila contraceptives ban, former mayor Lito Atienza, have vowed to fight the legislation and may petition the Supreme Court to declare the bill unconstitutional. Others believe the country is ready for change. “The Catholic Church has steadfastly opposed the RH bill for 13 years,” Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago told the Associated Press. “But I humbly submit that there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” No less than the lives of Filipinos are at stake.


Soviel zum Tagesgeschehen auf den Philippinen. Ich selbst hatte schon eine interessante Diskussion mit einer Nonne zum Thema Pille ja oder nein. Sie vertrat die Ansicht, dass die Methoden der natürlichen Familienplanung besser zur Geburtenkontrolle geeignet wären als die Pille, stimmte mir aber zu, dass die Kenntnis über diese Methoden zur Zeit viel zu wenig verbreitet ist um eine baldige Änderung der gegenwärtigen Bevölkerungsentwicklung herbeizuführen. Die Schwester sieht es deshalb als ihr Ziel an Bildungsprogramme durchzuführen während ich es ehrlich anzweifeln muss, dass das durchschnittliche philippinische Paar genügend Selbstdisziplin und Konsequenz aufbringt, die für die natürliche Familienplanung notwendig ist. Zusätzlich ist die „natürliche Methode“ auch nur für Paare geeignet, die über einen längeren Zeitraum in einer Beziehung leben.

Aber ein anderes Thema: Heute Nachmittag wird eine deutsche Delegation aus dem Bistum Limburg hier in Alaminos eintreffen, mit der Franzi und Ich bis zum 10. Januar unterwegs sein werden. Während dieser Zeit, werde ich möglicherweise keinen Internetzugang haben, wundert euch also nicht, wenn ihr länger als gewöhnlich nicht von uns beiden hört.

Eure Sina

P.S.: Wir haben am 25. Dezember tatsächlich nichts gemacht. Ab-so-lut NICHTS.

Ein Kommentar

  1. Klaus Manger Klaus Manger 10. Januar 2013

    Hallo Sina,
    bin denn doch ein bisschen platt ob des englischen Artikels und der schlichten Denkweise mancher Hirten. Das wäre aber dann hier eine zu lange Diskussion. Der Herr lässt uns schon selber denken – also…
    Übrigens habe ich über Euch gerade gestern im neu erschienenen „Sonntag“ gelesen. Den Artikel schick ich Deinen Eltern in Kopie.
    Sonst alles klar hier.
    Bleib Du auch klar, gelassen und bestimmt in Argumentation und Diskurs.
    Das überzeugt und / oder verbindet.
    Grüße von Klaus und dem ganzen Haus