“It is distressing that the miracle of life means death to 10 mothers daily in the Philippines,” Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay stressed during the 2nd National Multi-Sectoral Conference on Population and Development last August 15, 2007.
The Bicol solon is the principal author of House Bill No. 17 or the “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2007”.
Contrary to the statement of Health Secretary Francisco Duque that the solution to high maternal mortality rate is “quality obstetrical care”, Lagman said that what government should do is to provide couples and women with “quality information and access to reproductive health services, including the full range of medically safe and legally permissible family planning methods, in order to reduce unplanned, mistimed and unwanted pregnancies.”
“While obstetrical care is important, it is obviously after the fact of pregnancy. The lesser the incidence of unplanned pregnancies, the lesser the need to appropriate funds for obstetrical care even as the government can maximize resources for family planning,” Lagman added.
According to Lagman, "too early, too late, too many, and too close" aptly describes the undesirable aspects of pregnancies that are not planned. Lagman underscored that “avoiding pregnancies in older and very young women and proper birth spacing will have a direct impact on maternal mortality by reducing the proportion of pregnancies that are considered high-risk.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than half a million women die each year from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. It reports that “almost 90%” of these deaths occur in developing countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2003 a WHO report entitled “Reducing the Risks of Pregnancy—the Role of Contraception”, states with absolute certainty that “increased use of contraception would also have an obvious and direct effect on the number of maternal deaths” simply by reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies.
Lagman said that data from the DOH itself reveals that 43% of all pregnant women in the Philippines give birth without assistance from a doctor, nurse or midwife. Moreover, he stressed that teenage mothers are not only twice as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth but babies born to these women are also more likely to die before the age of five.
“There is more to family planning than meets the eye,” Lagman emphasized.
More than just a tool to help women and couples responsibly plan their families, Lagman stated that the principal benefits from being able to make informed family planning decisions are: (1) lower maternal and infant mortality; (2) more benefits for children since smaller-sized families assure they will be better nourished and will receive better health care; (3) higher human capital investment at the family level that would lead to bigger investments in health and education; (4) increased income generating and educational opportunities for women; and (5) significantly lower abortion rates.