Sunday, September 21, 2008


Reproductive health is a woman’s right. It is a woman’s right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to her sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. The enabling conditions for its exercise are equal relationships between women and men, including full respect for the integrity of the person, and mutuality, consent and shared responsibility for sexual behavior and its consequences. Implicit in this exercise is the right of women and men to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable health-care services.

We support the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill because it embodies many aspects of the principle of reproductive health as a woman’s right:

1. The RH Bill promotes sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflects a commitment to women’s social and economic well-being, and affirms the moral capacity of women and men to make sound decisions about their lives. Because reproductive health is central to overall health, fundamental aspects of women’s well-being are compromised when reproductive health is ignored. Women are placed in bondage to reproduction and biology if only “natural family planning” is tolerated.

2. The RH Bill makes it the responsibility of the state to protect the right to choose, not to make decisions for individuals. Women’s right to choose is a basic part of exercising control over their lives. The Bill provides for women to be informed and to services that will ensure women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. However, reproductive rights are only likely to be exercised effectively and responsibly by women when certain other economic and social rights and entitlements have been realized. The conditions under which choices are made are as important as the actual content of women’s choices: the right to choose is a meaningless abstraction if women are powerless to choose.

3.The RH Bill recognizes the catastrophic health consequences of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Poverty is not only implicated in these deaths, it is also often its direct cause. The RH Bill acknowledges the reproductive health needs of vulnerable young and poor women and the removal of legal as well as attitudinal punitive measures against those who have undergone poorly managed abortions.

4. The RH Bill acknowledges that reproductive and sexual health are integral to social and economic health. Fertility control must be part of a broader program which seeks to improve women’s health and education; provide women with productive work; promote gender equity, especially by placing equal responsibility for reproduction and child-rearing on men; and reorient structural social, economic and development processes towards an equitable distribution of the nation’s, and the world’s, productive assets.

5. The RH Bill affirms that human sexuality and gender relations are closely interrelated and together affect the ability of men and women to achieve and maintain sexual health and manage their reproductive lives. The differential power between men and women in general, and husbands and wives in particular, is a major factor in women’s ability to exercise reproductive options. Those who have most at stake in every pregnancy should be allowed a decisive voice and choice on their own behalf.

We urge the legislators to affirm women’s right to reproductive self-determination and support the Reproductive Health Bill.


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