One time, I received an SMS from my mentor saying “why are you so passionate about RH Bill. Dont think about politics, think about lives.” My mentor is one of the highly regarded authorities in our field and him saying such to me made me rethink. Am I fighting a wrong battle with my support to the reproductive health bill? What politics am I doing or violating with such stance?
Being a pediatrician and a neonatologist, I am faced with women giving birth… mostly women with complicated pregnancies. Often than not, most of my referrals are emergency cesarian deliveries where either or both of the mother and babies is/are in peril; delay of delivering by few minutes might just lead to the death of the baby or the mother. These are the lives I am dealing with often… Rethinking my mentor’s statement, are these lives the only one I should fight for?
Being in a private practice, the mothers and babies referred to me are under the care of obstetricians. BUT, the statistics have keep on repeating that only half of the mothers in the Philippines deliver in the hospital. And not all of those who deliver in the hospital have been adequately cared for by obstetricians. Some may have had a visit to a health center, midwives, nurses or even obstetricians, but not frequently enough for thorough monitoring of their pregnancies. Now, what about those who have no access to health services at all? Are they not the ones I fight for too by supporting the reproductive health and responsible parenthood bill? Shouldn’t they matter to me, even if I am a privately practicing neonatologist who won’t earn income from them?
The provisions of the bill mention, among other else, include providing options for couples to plan for their family, providing age-appropriate sexuality education, prohibiting abortion, providing access to health care to all mothers. With such provisions, who would not be glad to support such measure, especially for someone who know the actual health status of our young children and mothers? In reality, we as a country, and at the current status we are in, will not be able to meet the millenium development goals by 2015, specifically on child health, maternal deaths and HIV. In fact, those millenium development goals should have been achieved by 2000, when I was still a student. But the deadline kept on being postponed as they have never been met universally. Seeing this bill addressing such concerns really merits support, especially if you are a rational being.
It is bothersome to learn that not all infants receive adequate and proper care, and thus ending among those who do not reach their 5th birthday. In the latest global data, WHO listed the top causes of mortalities among children less than 5 years old as follows: pneumonia (18%), preterm birth complications (14%), diarrhea (11%), birth asphyxia (9%), malaria (7%), and others (41%). (Reference: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs178/en/index.html). The four leading causes of mortalities are PREVENTABLE, by adequate prenatal care and vaccination. In our country where our geography limits gathering of complete and actual data, the figures may be more. It is a fact that there is underreporting especially from our fellow countrymen in the farflung areas without access to information.
As of October 2012, the Department of Health have posted that there were 295 confirmed new cases of HIV-AIDS infection, 60 out of 295 are under the 15-24 years old age bracket. Among the OFWs, who Senator Enrile boasts of as our large export, 31 of 295 or more than 10% new infections were confirmed. While it is true that still men who have sex with men are the bracket with the highest proportion, our OFWs are another factors who contract the disease from their country of work and vectors it into our country. If only these persons have been educated well enough, have access to protective barriers, then probably we can also join the rank of those countries with decreasing prevalence. On the contrary, we are among the few remaining countries with consistently increasing number of cases. (Reference: http://www.doh.gov.ph/sites/default/files/NEC_HIV_Oct-AIDSreg2012.pdf).
Teenage (or Early) pregnancy is very high in the Philippines, in fact it increased significantly few years ago that we are now among the top countries in Asia with the highest number. Out of fear, teenage moms usually end up hiding their pregnancies (and thus not visiting an obstetricians) or worse, decide to abort them. Again, I recall that story of a colleague of mine who admitted a baby born outside the hospital. The mother is teenage, from a conservative Catholic family who never knew she was pregnant. She went to a department store at the time she was due to deliver, locked herself in a storage room and delivered the baby there. She abandoned the baby at the storage room, went out as if nothing happened. Good thing a saleslady heard the baby cry and thus was brought to the hospital. If only these young people are well aware about their body, their sexuality, then these unwanted pregnancies may be reduced to minimal to nil, nor would they end up criminal by aborting their own offsprings.
Maternal deaths do happen, and the average is 11 mothers dying everyday due to pregnancy-related causes. Maternal morbidity doesn’t only encompass death during giving birth, but it is also due to complications that arise from pregnancy – including pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, puerperal sepsis, abortion-related complications and deaths. What is so stupid and an insult to the honor of those mother who died was when a senator demanded for their death certificate as he thinks the statistics was just made up. It is not a joke for a motherless family. The father will all the more strive to work to provide for his large litter; whom are left under the care of anyone convenient to do so. (In retrospect, I wonder if this senator’s neurons are still discharging electrical impulses, or if he has neurons in his brain at all.)
I do not agree with the accusations by those opposing the bill where among other else, RH Bill is a population control measure. And because it is so, then it will lead to extinction of our race (ethnic cleansing – Bishop Arguelles) or there will be decline of our labor force, hence lesser Filipinos would be working as overseas contract workers (Senator Enrile). So senator, our overseas contract workers are milking cows? If you notice, many countries have long existing reproductive health law. And contrary to the prejudiced fear of our legislators, their race remains and have never been extinguished by their reproductive health law. Another argument hurled into me before was, there will be lesser kids, and I will have fewer to none patients. I was really dumbfounded by this comment from a devote Catholic anti-rh bill fan. While it is true that I earn my keep from my pediatric patients, I do not equate them to churchgoers whom I will amass monetary collections from every time I celebrate a mass.
One more thing they so lugubriously proclaim is the imaginary abortions that hormonal contraceptives bring forth. I always ask them to understand first the physiologic effects of female hormones before they further open their mouth and spew lots of shits. That hormones cause cancer, and then they give you a medical article dated 1975 but refuses to accept articles published lately, refuting all those studies they have. And then a senator shares an anecdote that contraceptive pills caused congenital heart disease of his offspring and made a brouhaha about it on national television. That was really worth saying WHAT THE FUCK! With an asshole-constricted comprehension, you will never expect them to imbibe new and additional knowledge and correct their ill-informed minuscule prokaryotic comprehension.
Should I just shrug my shoulders as if nothing wrong is happening to our fellowmen? As far as my conscience, which was honed and guided in Catholic institutions, is concerned, I need to intervene with whatever means I could to allay such unfortunate mishaps in the lives of our underprivileged fellowmen. In China, they train their children as early as 5 years of age to grow up as medal hoarders during olympics. And that is just olympics. If China devotes such passion for olympics, what about preparing our young people to be the future of our country? Should we not equip them, enhance their potentials with similar passion by providing well for them from conception until they end up independents? Isn’t that our duty and obligations as responsible parents, citizens?