[PODCAST] Making Space: Upholding reproductive health rights in a pandemic

Healthcare facilities in the Philippines are all hands on deck in the battle against the novel coronavirus. But what happens when a poor mother under labor walks to a hospital because of lack of mass transport, on top of fears she might be rejected for overcapacity?

Reports of hospital rejections of mothers throughout the outbreak have emerged, one of which is the story of Katherine Bulatao. 

In April, Katherine suffered from complications after giving birth at home – a choice she made because she was afraid of contracting the coronavirus. She was reportedly refused treatment by 6 facilities for different reasons – ranging from the lack of adequate medical facilities and health care workers, to the inability of Katherine to make an advance payment.

By the time Katherine's family found a facility willing to accept her, Katherine had already bled to death.

Before the pandemic, the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) estimated that 2,400 women and girls die every year in the Philippines from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

"There is a high probability that these preventable deaths would only increase with diminished health system resources, lack of immediate access to accurate reproductive health information and services, inadequate transportation facilities, and decreased or total loss of income and employment opportunities in a COVID-19 response that fails to take into account the specific needs of women’s reproductive health and rights," WGNRR said in a statement.

On May 28, the International Day of Action for Women's Health, WGNRR has one call to the government – make sure that women's sexual and reproductive health is not deprioritized during the pandemic.

Rappler sits down with WGNRR executive director Marevic "Bing" Parcon to explore the topic. Parcon said that government responses to the pandemic which are not comprehensive and do not have regard for sexual and reproductive health rights are "bound to fail." Excluding these considerations would also add to problems, such as the possibility of mothers dying of preventable causes.

Another reminder she said the government needs is providing family planning services to people who need them. This would kill two birds with one stone – it helps protect women from the possibility of gender-based violence happening in a house under lockdown, and it would also allow women to experience safe sexual pleasure in a lockdown that may take a toll on mental health.

Making Space is Rappler's podcast on gender, health, education, social services, and everything in between. – Rappler.com

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