By Irving Feng
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
MANILA, The Philippines – Pregnant mothers endure poor medical care in crowded hospitals in Manila as the debate over a new reproductive health care bill rages on in the Philippine legislature.
At the Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, 171 pregnant mothers share less than 100 beds in the overflowing maternity ward. Many more expecting mothers wait in lines outside on the street, some sleeping on the sidewalk.
The hospital staff will not grant these expecting mothers admission until the absolute last moment, when they are ready to give birth. After they give birth, the mothers are allowed to spend a maximum of 48 hours in the maternity ward for recovery; most of them sleep two to a bed due to the overcrowding.
Most of the women who seek the services at Fabella Memorial Hospital are working class or destitute and cannot afford the luxury of giving birth at a private hospital. Fabella accepts the pregnant women which other hospitals reject and charge 3,000 pesos (roughly $70 USD) for a regular birth.
However, most women who come to Fabella cannot afford to pay the 3,000 pesos, so the hospital renders their services for as little as 100 pesos (roughly $2.40 USD) in some extreme cases. The hospital averages about 60 deliveries per day, and during peak seasons, will see as many as 80 deliveries in one day.
Due to Catholicism being the predominate religion in the Philippines, many of the women have never had any sex or reproductive health education. Contraception is also rarely utilized because many of the women cannot afford it or are morally opposed to it because of religious beliefs.
The proposed reproductive health bill is slated to address the lack of sex and reproductive health education and inaccessibility of contraceptives. The legislation has been backed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, but has been met with serious opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Philippines has one of the fattest growing populations in the entire world with an estimated birth rate of roughly 25 out of 1000 people, compared to roughly 14 out of 1000 people in the U.S. The new reproductive health care legislation will implement family planning services in hopes of bringing the out of control birth rate down.
Government proponents of the reproductive health care bill hope to distribute reproductive health care services throughout the country and offer better access to contraceptives. The Bill also hopes to spread, more importantly, knowledge regarding sex and reproductive health, against the wishes of the Roman Catholic Church, in hopes that the education will lead to more informed decisions about family planning.
For further information, please see:
The Philippine Star – Gov’t focused on sin tax, leaves RH, FOI to lawmakers – 12 November 2012
The New York Times – Manila Hospital, No Stranger to Stork, Awaits Reproductive Health Bill’s Fate – 9 November 2012
ABC Radio Australia – Philippine lawmakers confident of health bill approval – 7 November 2012
The Inquirer – Lawmakers, civil society groups urge House to put into vote revised RH bill – 7 November 2012
Reuters – Philippines defies church to push family planning – 2 October 2012