Saturday, August 4, 2012

Let Us Pray

I'm Catholic. I went to an all girls high school run by Catholic nuns. I got married under Catholic rites. I had my child baptized Catholic. Its very likely that he'll go to a Catholic school. Lately however, I've been wondering if I want to continue being a Catholic in the Philippines. You see, contrary to what the leaders of the Catholic Church in this country want me to do, I've been praying very very hard for the passage of the Reproductive Health bill. 

My pregnancy was planned. Immediately after the pregnancy test, we went to an obstetrician. Because I was 34 and borderline hypertensive, my doctor required me to have several ultrasound exams in the course of my pregnancy. On my 8th week ultrasound, my doctor found internal bleeding in my uterus and I was given medication and put on bed rest. As my baby grew bigger, the ultrasound showed his umbilical cord was wound around his neck. I gave birth via emergency C-section because my water had broken hours earlier, my baby's heartbeat was getting faint and my cervix still wasn't open wide enough for a normal birth. 

As you can see from previous posts, my baby is growing up to be a healthy little boy. That would not have been possible had I not been given the best medical care while I was pregnant and giving birth. We got the best care because we had access to it. 

However, millions of Filipino mothers give birth without ever seeing a doctor, they have no idea that something as easy as taking folic acid every day can help their baby's development, or that they are not supposed to smoke or eat raw food while they are pregnant. I wonder what percentage of pregnant mothers in the Philippines have access to and have had an ultrasound in the course of their pregnancy. 

In 2011, the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines rose to 221 per 100,000 live births from 162 live births in 2010. Under the Millenium Development Goals set for the Philippines, the target is to lower is to 52 per 100,000 live births. You can find this information here. As you can see, we are clearly way off the mark. 

Perhaps, one factor that contributed to this increase in maternal mortality is the alarming surge of teenage pregnancies in the Philippines for the past 10 years. 

According to the UNFPA, the number of teenage pregnancies in the country rose to a whopping 70 percent from 114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009. 

At the rate of 53 births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19, the teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines is the highest in South East Asia! 

In 2009 alone, 11 percent of the 1.75 million live births were from teenage mothers. I got these figures from this news article. 

Things got even worse in 2010. In this December 2011 article in the Manila Bulletin website, 

"A World Bank study revealed that the Philippines is among the top 10 countries with an escalating population of teenage mothers.
Seven out of 10 Filipino mothers are adolescents ages 19 years old and below. As of 2010, there are at least four million young mothers in the Philippines and at least 10 mothers die during childbirth everyday based on statistics by the United Nations Family Planning Association (UNFPA)."

How will passing the RH Bill address these problems?

Here are ten good reasons to pass the RH Bill now from the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN). They have been lobbying for the passage of this bill for the longest time and have withstood all sorts of criticism and abusive language from those who claim to be pro-life, some going as far as condemning their souls to hell.

I believe in the power of prayer. And so, like the bishops said, I will pray. I will pray for the souls of all those mothers who die every day during child birth. I will ask for God's mercy for all the mothers in this country. I will pray for the enlightenment of our representatives in Congress, that at the moment when we need them the most, they will not abandon us. That they will choose to do what is right by us. That they will pass the RH Bill.