JURIST Dateline Editor Kristine Long, Pitt Law '11, lived in the Philippines with her family for 5 years...
Passing House Bill 5043 or other similar legislation will involve a lengthy struggle. The Catholic Church has openly opposed the bill, stating that it tends to promote abortion and pre-marital sexual relations. Women within the country are torn between their faith and their desire to avoid the negative effects brought on by lack of access to birth control. Advocacy for reproductive choice is stifled because the millions of people who adhere to their Catholic faith feel that such a bold move towards sexual freedom goes against the morality of the country. However, a recent report called "Imposing Misery" portrays the lives of such women, who face economic, health, and personal struggles because of the many children they have been forced to bear.
My mother, the oldest of seven siblings, grew up in an environment where contraception was not widely accepted or even available. Living in a rural suburb of Manila, few knew anything about family planning, and having many children was the norm. It was only by going to college and eventually moving to the US that my mother was able to learn that women had other options.
It is overly simplistic to paint Filipino ways as oppressive, because there is also a strong Western sentiment in the country, enhanced by pop culture. There have long been strong cultural ties between the US and the Philippines, and the Philippines were a US commonwealth until 1946. Growing up half-American and half-Filipina, I experienced how closely the two cultures prize the same ideals. Nonetheless, the Philippines also have a strong Spanish and Catholic cultural heritage left over from colonial times. The Philippines is therefore a country that is progressive in many ways, but there are still millions of people who champion traditional Church values. Such an affinity for religion promotes the country's ideals of family, morality, and conservatism. However, the same moral concerns keep citizens from fully embracing a more progressive view towards women's sexuality.
At this time, House Bill 5043 is still being debated in the House of Representatives, but the mere fact that it exists shows how far legislators have come in garnering support for reproductive rights. In order for the bill to be successful, legislators must balance conservative moral ideology while still promoting progressive freedoms. Such a task is daunting. Yet, it is imperative for Filipinas to understand that they are not forsaking their faith by seeking birth control. Filipinas' pursuit for reproductive equality is similar to the struggle of many other women, and in order for reproductive freedom to become a worldwide reality, the ideology that frames progressive women as going against morality and familial duty must change.Photo Credits: Thomas Carpenter, Pitt Law '11
"Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila's Contraception Ban on Women and Families," The Center for Reproductive Rights, June 1, 2009. Retrieved from: http://reproductiverights.org/en/document/imposing-misery-the-impact-of-manilas-contraception-ban-on-women-and-families
House Bill No. 5043 (Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008). Retrieved from: http://jlp-law.com/blog/full-text-of-house-bill-no-5043-reproductive-health-and-population-development-act-of-2008/
"Philippines Family Planning Bill Challenges Catholic Influence on Reproductive Health," Medical News Today, Mar 12, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/141973.php