Maternal Health and HB 5043

Manila Bulletin, October 18, 2008 | Go to article overview

Maternal Health and HB 5043


THE latest SWS survey showed that 71 percent of the population favors the bill on reproductive health, with 76 percent giving approval on public education on family planning. 76 percent also believes that there should be a law legalizing distribution of contraceptives and 50 percent does not agree that use of contraceptives is a form of abortion.

A reaction to my column on this subject was whether there is a correlation between contraceptive use and maternal mortality. Let me quote from a UNDP-UNFPA-WHO-World Bank report, Progress in Reproductive Health Research (Quarterly Newsletter 62, 2003) which states that "increased use of contraception has an indirect effect on the number of maternal deaths simply by reducing the number of pregnancies. Specifically, 100,000 maternal deaths could be avoided if women who did not want children used effective contraception. The changing composition of childbearing - avoiding pregnancies in the very young or older women and increasing the intervals between births can have an impact by reducing the proportion of pregnancies that are considered high-risk. Contraception, the report further states, reduces obstetric mortality and morbidity." As I stated earlier, citing the Time Magazine report on "Death in Birth," most of the causes of maternal death are lack of access to clinics or hospitals, lack of well-trained and motivated health personnel, lack of availability of health supplies, unsanitary conditions, and traditional practices and fatalistic attitudes.

The bill is controversial and therefore merits a continuing information and education campaign regardless of whether it becomes a law or not. Despite the approval of the bill by a majority, there is only a 46 percent awareness level and this is primarily at the urban centers. Reaching the grassroots should be a collective responsibility - led by the mass media and the schools. We should continue to raise the pros and cons in an atmosphere of debate as some points raised by the opposition can be enlightening.

Mr. Manuel Felix G. Abejo Jr. (jun.abejo@gmail.com), among others, have raised some arguments, a portion of which I quote:

"Maternal mortality can be reduced without HB 5043. …

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