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DOH: Aquino's stance on RH bill based on 'responsible parenthood'

September 29, 2010 5:10pm

The Department of Health (DOH) said the Aquino administration's stand on Reproductive Health (RH) should be viewed from the context of "responsible parenthood."

In a press conference on Wednesday, Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona said the government's promotion of family planning is not just about "preventing pregnancies" but about promoting responsible parenthood.

"It's hard to discuss contraception only in the context of prevention of pregnancy," Ona said. "We are looking at it in the context of the whole gamut of parenthood, meaning family planning in the context of responsible parenthood."

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's stand on reproductive health recently drew criticism from the Catholic Church once more after saying the government has to inform the public of their reproductive health and family planning choices.

"I think the government is obligated to to inform everybody of their responsibility and their choices, at the end of the day government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method," Aquino said in a meeting with a Filipino community in San Francisco recently.

On Wednesday, the Catholic bishops threatened to lead a civil disobedience campaign if the controversial RH bill becomes a law.

“Sasabihin namin sa mga Catholics na hindi nila dapat sundin ang batas na yan (If the RH bill becomes law, we will advise Catholics not to follow it)," said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr., head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) public affairs unit.

In an interview on dzXL radio, Iñiguez said in Filipino, "Population control is something the government and Church must work together on. But the Church considers as non-negotiable its opposition to artificial contraception."

Iñiguez also said it is highly likely that Congress will pass the RH bill into law as Aquino recently reiterated that he is in favor of "responsible parenthood," which is commonly understood to mean the range of birth control options, from natural to artificial methods.

Ona said the DOH will actively promote both the natural method of contraception and the artificial or scientific method of contraception.

The natural method, which is championed by the Catholic Church, promotes family planning based on a woman's fertility cycle. Pregnancy is prevented by observing abstinence during the woman's fertile days.

The artificial method, on the other hand, uses methods of birth control like condoms, contraceptive pills and IUDs to prevent pregnancy.

According to Ona, like the universal health care program that the DOH is working on, the reproductive health program will make reproductive health information available to everyone.

After properly informing the public about their choices, it will be up to the person to choose which method is best for his or her needs, he said.

Ona said those who choose the contraceptive pill as their method of contraception but cannot afford to buy the pills, can be assisted by the government.

He added that the department will focus more on the advocacy, by informing the public about:
  • contraceptive options;
  • proper nutrition during pregnancy;
  • proper spacing of children, and
  • other reproductive health matters.

    For the health department's 2011 budget, P931M is allocated for reproductive health. Ona said the budget is not only for buying pills or condoms but also for their information campaign on issues such as infant mortality and maternal deaths.

    "One way to address that is proper spacing [of children]," he said. "If [a woman] gets pregnant right after she has just given birth, she and her child will most likely be poorly nourished."

    Eight development goals

    He said this will also help the government reach its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on improving child and maternal health, which should be achieved by 2015.

    The MDGs are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states, and at least 23 international organizations, have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

    These goals include:
    (1) Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
    (2) Achieving universal primary education;
    (3) Promoting gender equality and empowering women;
    (4) Reducing child mortality rate;
    (5) Improving maternal health;
    (6) Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
    (7) Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
    (8) Developing a global partnership for development.

    - VVP, GMANews.TV
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