Hooray for UNFPA

The RH bill in the Philippines would would make contraceptives available to people who can’t afford them. The Catholic Church has been battling this measure for years.  The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has just released a five minute video entitled “RH Bill in the Philippines”.  Please watch this 5 minute UNFPA news report: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/news/pid/7137  Quite frankly, to those who don’t partake in “blind faith”, the Church attorney’s arguments against the bill appear non-sensical. Pay attention to her words on what really should be called an abortion crisis in her country.

The accompanying information from UNFPA states that out of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines in 2008, 1.9 million were unplanned. About 11 women die daily as a complication of pregnancy or childbirth which, according to UNFPA, could be reduced by one third if there were access to family planning.

The video shines light on the continued unmet demand for family planning services particularly among the poorest.  This is true not only in the Philippines but worldwide. I recently wrote about Population Action International’s www.empty-handed.org short video which features women who seek but don’t find.  “The pills were out of stock”.

Human numbers do matter. The Philippine population has tripled since 1965 standing now at 93.6 million. At current growth rates, the country will have 100 million people by 2015 and 140 million by 2040.  The total fertility rate, i.e. children per woman, is 2.98 but poor women have an average of six children, two more than they desire.  UNFPA states that without concrete steps to check this trend, the country is unlikely to achieve its Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction, education, and maternal health.

So why did I entitle this article “Hooray for UNFPA”?  Because it brought a crucial issue to the fore. Religious opposition to women’s health and especially to all of what reproductive health entails, and to gender equality in general is an under- emphasized worldwide phenomenon.  I believe that UNFPA’s positon is very reasonable  and necessary. It seeks to engage religious leaders and followers where there are common interests. Thoraya Obaid, the just retired Executive Director of UNFPA, emphasized finding common ground with all religions and in so doing made of UNFPA the U.N. humanitarian agency supported by more countries than any other .  

But I submit that you can’t compromise too much. Human rights are human rights no matter what! Reason with, explain, cajole, push: all to the good. But at the end of the day, take the side of women.  

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact press@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • jessica-gender-across-borders

    UNFPA is great, and I support their approach to this long-standing battle in the Philippines.  But they are by no means the leaders of this movement, nor are they the linchpin.  The “hooray” instead should go to the tireless Filipino policymakers — who have championed the RH bill for more than a decade in its many iterations — and country-level advocacy and rights groups, who have both provided contraceptive services in the mean time, and never given up the fight.


    UN bodies can be effective and truly important, but they shouldn’t take all the credit — that is a major problem with global development these days.  Appreciate local actors and leave the UN out of it.  More over, while numbers do count in the Philippines – clearly this is about human rights first and foremost. We should make sure we have our priorities straight.

  • jane-roberts

    I totally agree that “tireless Filipino policymakers” have been the linchpin. I say Hooray for UNFPA for putting this video on its web site and taking on this issue. That’s what I’m talking about.  In the past they might not have done so.

    You make a good comment. Thanks!