Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - If there is one thing CNN hero Robin Lim truly understands, it is the plight of mothers everywhere. A pioneering midwife with an American father and a Filipino mother, Lim spent time in Baguio where she learned the old ways of midwifery even as she herself became a mother. "I became deeply Filipino, like my mother, and my lola, so much so that when I was a teenage mother-to-be, I chose to give birth, not in a hospital with a doctor, but with a midwife," Lim said of her giving birth to daughter Deja.
After losing her sister to complications arising from childbirth, Lim became a certified midwife in the United States and went on to champion a balance of old traditions and modern medicine. Most of all, she championed access to quality medicine for mothers. She founded the Yayasan Bumi Sehat in Indonesia to provide care for indigent mothers and their children. For this, global broadcast conglomerate CNN named Lim its 2011 CNN Hero of the Year.
On a visit to the Philippines, Lim was honored with a Senate resolution that identified her as a "shining example to each of us." The resolution reads: "Lim is also bringing miracles to the lives of countless women through her prenatal and childbirth clinics in the cities of Baguio and Quezon. Lim's offer of medical assistance to pregnant women from her home grew to a personal mission and commitment to give every poor woman the same chance of surviving childbirth by providing access to free and quality prenatal care and birthing services."
It is most significant that Lim accepted the honor and spoke out on the topic of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill. With an estimated 981 women perishing daily from pregnancy complications, Lim called on women "to make wise choices within their culture."
She spoke out for Filipino mothers as well: "We really need to give women their own choice; we need to trust women to make wise choices for themselves or their families. And again, there is a war going on over the reproductive health bill, and whenever there's a war, there are victims. When people fight there are victims, and the victims here are women and babies."
Lim's message resonates on this day set aside for honoring our mothers. It is a reminder that much work needs to be done to ensure women's safety when they take on the fateful choice of motherhood. It is a call for the passage of the RH bill as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the measure remains mired in a Congress that is under pressure from the Church and other power blocs and distractions such as the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. In February, President Aquino said "our expectations are that priority measures will still be passed before the current Congress ends" in June. The RH bill is among the priority measures identified by Malaca?ang. While it has existed in some form or other since 1998, the current version was filed in 2011 by a group of lawmakers led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and is called the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Law.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales has admitted that certain measures were proceeding at a snail's pace because of their "contentious nature," and identified the RH bill as the best example. "Even without the impeachment [trial], that is contentious," he said. But it is time to move beyond that contentiousness. Countless Filipino mothers and children continue to suffer due to the lack of proper information and available options. Motherhood is a sacred role that needs to be approached with wisdom and discernment. It is a gift as well as a responsibility.
"I don't think anyone wants mothers or babies to die, so let's ask everyone on both sides to join hands in peace," Lim said, clearly understanding the urgency of the situation. She called for "a reproductive health plan that works for everyone," adding that she was looking forward to seeing women "choosing to be pregnant or not to be pregnant," and that "it is up to our lawmakers to support them in those choices."
"Health care is a human right," Lim declared.
It falls to our lawmakers to respond to this challenge. It is time for all Filipinos to overcome the obstacles of ignorance and embrace the full implication of motherhood: that it is not merely about biological reproduction but also about wise choices and ensuring a healthy life for both mothers and their children. A point to ponder as we celebrate Mother's Day.