Off track

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By Radzini Oledan

Slice of Life

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


SHOULD the Catholic Church just step aside and let women decide for themselves?

After all, women have to contend with the reality of raising children, even beyond their means. It is not only a matter of giving birth safely in health facilities but also of raising children the best that they could, often in a difficult environment.

Each day, about 11 mothers die because of hypertensive disorder, severe hemorrhage or other labor related problems. This means that the lifetime risk of maternal death in the country is one in every 140. Every year, 4,500 women succumb to death due to pregnancy related complications.

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How come no one is listening to women on its demand to take better control of their reproductive health? The matter has become a monologue on how religious leaders, including the Catholic Church, perceive the body of women and decide on their behalf on how to do with it.

For women ages 15 to 19, complications of pregnancy, childbirth, and unsafe abortion are major causes of death. Along with increased exposure to STIs and unintended pregnancy, those who engage in early sexual activity face social stigma, and the potential for unsafe abortion and problems with their school. Others are more relegated to the sidelines because despite increasing attention to education, an estimated seven out of 10 girls remains out of school.

Where couples are unable to make their own informed decision, there is the religious leaders dictating on how they should think and decide for themselves. For the Church hierarchy, it does not matter whether women and girls have to contend with the issue on who decides on what.

Where maternal deaths and early pregnancies are increasing, access to relevant information on reproductive health will allow women to make informed choices that could save their own lives.

Education is an enabling right that unlocks progress on a range of other issues, from political participation to child survival. The country remains off track on maternal mortality and education in the Millennium Development Goals. The current rate of progress is less than one fifth of what is needed to hit the target.

If the male hierarchy in the Church refuses to respond to the recurrent problem of inadequate reproductive health services and information, it should also be able to deal with the challenge of women dying everyday for giving birth.

The government has a lot to do to ensure access to reproductive health services and information. It cannot just stand aside and allow the Church to dictate on the lives of women who needs these services. Adequate resources have to be set aside towards health education, and to include HIV education, prevention, care, and support.

The challenge is on what to do with mothers dying of childbirth and other pregnancy related complications while the Church hierarchy continues with its discourse. There is a better way of doing than watch lives being wasted away.

Email comments to roledan@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 16, 2013.

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