Family Planning Issues

  • Access to family planning information

    A study conducted in 2006 by Josefina Cabigon of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and five other experts at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an international NGO that focuses on sexual and reproductive rights worldwide, says that six in 10 Filipino women had an unintended pregnancy at some point in their lives because of lack of access to and knowledge of modern family planning methods. This translated to about 1.43 million unintended pregnancies each year, a third of which end in abortion.

    The study also said that women who had abortion came from all classes, with majority being unmarried, poor, and Catholic. It added that poor women tend to use unsafe methods because they cannot afford safe procedures by trained health providers. These unsafe methods include massage, insertion of a catheter, and the use of Misoprostol, which is prescribed by doctors to treat gastric ulcers. Eight of 10 of the women who use such methods suffer complications, says the study.

    This was further attested by another study by the World Bank in July 2007 that also found that one main reason women in developing countries like the Philippines seek abortion is "often due to difficulties in obtaining access to an appropriate method of contraception, incorrect or inconsistent use of contraceptive methods, and contraceptive method failure."

  • Access to contraceptive materials and products.

    The Philippines faces an immediate problem when it lost 80% of the country’s subsidized contraceptive supply due to two factors: first, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) decided to stop contraceptive donations; and second, the Arroyo administration continues to refuse to provide funding resources to offset the loss.

    Since 1970, the USAID has extended an average of US$17 milion a year in assistance to the Philippine family planning program, of which about US$3 million a year had been for contraceptives. The pills, IUDs, injectibles and condoms were made available the Filipino people for free through the rural health units (RHUs). In 1999, the Philippine government initiated the Contraceptive Interdependence Initiative (CII) to promote the partnership between the government, private business sector, and NGOs in the sustainable provision of family planning services and contraceptive supplies. In 2000, the DOH, NEDA and USAID adopted the CII framework, a major component of which is now known as Contraceptive Self-Reliance (CSR), which states that any self-respecting nation should be as self-reliant as possible, especially in areas as fundamental as family planning services for its own people. In September 2001, the DOH issued the Philippine National Family Planning Policy, which categorically states that the Philippine Government seeks "to encourage self-sufficiency and eliminate dependence on foreign donors for family planning services and commodities." The contraceptive support from the USAID had a phase-out period of 2002 to 2007 – with the last shipment of donated condoms in 2003. By 2007, the contraceptive donations ended. On the other hand, the US$3 million previously used for contraceptives was shifted to other projects such as midwife clinics, HIV/AIDS education, food fortification, monitoring and information systems, and others.

    Last year, in fact, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman was able to insert a P180-million budget for contraceptives for 2007. But that money remained unspent. Even Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the amount would certainly not be used for artificial contraceptives.

It has been projected that the lack of adequate supply of contraceptives for couples needing these would push the country’s population to double every year. Obviously, the loss of 80% of contraceptive supply, and the government’s refusal to fill up the shortfall could aggravate and expand the Philippine population to 180 million in about 15 years, instead of the current projection of 30 years.

The doubling of the population is expected to inevitably be related and worsen the other problems resulting from unmitigated population growth. Consider this: The number of uneducated and unemployed Filipinos living below the poverty line could double. Instead of 225 children dying daily because of poverty-related diseases, as estimated by UNICEF, we may have 450. Instead of 400,000 abortions per year, as estimated by the University of the Philippines Population Institute, there could be 800,000. This could push the country deeper into underdevelopment and poverty.

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