This is a photo of a protest I saw while in the market with my friend the other day. The protest was held at a Catholic church, and it was against the Reproductive Health Bill that aims to improve maternal and child health by providing greater access to sex education, maternal care, and family planning methods like birth control pills, IUD’s and condoms. Being that the Philippines is largely a Catholic nation, due to the considerable influence of the Spanish colonists that were here from 1565 to 1898, this bill is very controversial. It has been through the Philippine congress several times, but it has yet to be passed in any form.
I have heard before that the Catholic Church encourages family planning, but just using natural methods. I am here to tell you I have seen first hand the impracticality of that approach in a place like this. For women with out even so much as a floor in their house, taking temperatures and charting ovulation is impractical and seldom done. Also, it’s a sad but true reality that many women will not do NFP because they are afraid that if they tell their husbands no at anytime (such as during ovulation) he will find his gratification outside of the marriage. Lactational Amenorrhea is also a method that is also suggested, but that method is only at best about 80% effective, and even then only for the first 6 months. Let me tell you, that 20% counts. It means that 1 time out of 5, pregnancy is likely. For women that can barely afford to feed themselves and their families, another pregnancy is a burden that they are literally dying to bear.
Accesses to things like education about parenting, pregnancy, and family planning (including artificial methods of birth control) have made a huge difference in the lives of many women here at the birth center. They show me that their bodies are healthier for having fewer children and having access to cheap vitamins (as well as nutritional counseling). I hear them talk about being empowered to provide a better life for the children they have. The women (and their familes) here at the birth center are very grateful for ALL of the reproductive and maternal health services provided—protestant and Catholic alike.
It really makes me feel grateful that we have access to these things so readily in the US, and it helps me to realize the difference they have made in the quality of our lives. In the US, we can choose if we want to use birth control or not because it is readily available. Each family can decide for themselves. If only the rest of the world were so lucky. I hope this bill finally passes, so that the midwives here are better able to do what they do best—provide top notch care. A midwifery student can dream, can’t she?