Campaigners in the Philippines are urging the passage of a decade-old bill that will ensure birth control methods are distributed across the country for the first time. Yu-Tzu Chiu reports.
Citing recent government statistics, which show that the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the Philippines is increasing, groups in support of a long-awaited Reproductive Health Bill are calling for it to become law as the new Congress session starts on July 23.
In late June, senators in favour of the bill, which covers the allocation of funds for contraceptives and the introduction of better sex education for children, reiterated the urgency to pass this legislation. Senator Pia Cayetano, principal sponsor of Senate Bill 2865, the Senate's version of the measure, said the Philippines might fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for maternal health by 2015, citing the results of the 2011 Family Health Survey. “During the past decade that the bill has been stalled in Congress, our MMR has not declined. In fact it has increased to 221 deaths per 100 000 livebirths from 162 deaths from the period 2000—2005”, Cayetano said in a statement, adding that the country's target is to reduce the rate to 52 per 100 000 livebirths by 2015.
Put simply, the results of the Family Health Survey mean that an estimated 11 women die every day in the Philippines from preventable complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth. During the launch of the survey on June 19, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, said: “The number of maternal deaths being reported today also gives us the much needed push to pass critical legislation in support of reproductive health, [and] the amendment of the midwifery and other health professions laws that will allow the provision of critical maternal health services to be provided by other health workers…”.