It’s 2019 and reproductive health continues to be an alarming issue across the globe. In the Philippines, the discussion on the issue still generally remains behind closed doors. As a conservative country, there is a prevailing stigma on women especially, who avail reproductive health services.
The fight for our rights to have better access to reproductive health services has been going on for a long time now. It was actually in 1999 when the first of many RH bills was filed in Congress. But it was only in 2012 that the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, also known as RA 10354, was signed into law by then-president Noynoy Aquino. According to Inquirer.net, under RA 10354, beneficiaries will be provided with “universal access to medically safe, non-abortifacient, effective, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies which do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum,” as well as “provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to public school students aged between 10 and 19.”
But The Conversation notes that although the measure was passed in 2012, it was suspended by the Supreme Court, “following objections from religious groups that alleged the law violated the rights to religion and free speech.”
The law was only revived five years later, when Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order calling for the implementation of the RH Law again. The Conversation reports that “just one day after Duterte signed the executive order, Luis Cardinal Tagle, Manila’s archbishop, reiterated that the Church ‘is against any law that promotes both natural and artificial family planning methods.’” Additionally, “In the same month as Duterte’s executive order, the Department of Education announced that it would block the distribution of condoms in schools, caving in to pressure from the Church.”
More than six years after the RH law was enacted, the Philippines is still far from its goal of achieving a contraceptive prevalence rate of 65 percent by 2022. | @jovicyeeINQ https://t.co/IkpmNYb4J5
This is a cause for concern. For one, the Philippines’ population is still growing exponentially, and while poverty is a factor of many things, economists agree that “rapid population growth and high fertility rates, especially among the poor, do exacerbate poverty and make it harder for the government to address it.”
Moreover, it has a significant impact on women’s health and living conditions. According to a study published in 2018, women from our country “face many sexual and reproductive health risks stemming from early, unprotected, and/or unwanted sexual activity.” Stressing, “Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to unintended pregnancies and maternal morbidity and mortality.” While there is a recorded increase on the use of contraceptives, “the prevalence rate is still low compared to the proportion of adolescents already having sex. Low contraceptive use persists even among adolescents who are married formally or in informal unions.”
The lack of access to contraceptive services lead to many ill effects—to young parents especially. For instance, many discontinue their education once they find out they’re pregnant—in turn, “limiting [their] employment opportunities as adults.” Also, the study cites that adolescent pregnancies contribute to maternal deaths and “although the methods used in the country cannot accurately measure maternal mortality by age groups, it is generally accepted that preventing unintended pregnancies can prevent maternal deaths.”
To address these lingering critical issues, many non-profit organizations have taken it upon themselves to provide access to reproductive health services. Here are some of them.
Likhaan is a non-government, non-profit organization established in 1995 “by a group of feminists, political activists, community women leaders, and health workers,” Scout reports. “The non-government organization has been providing free, accessible birth control to women of any age or economic status, and family planning and reproductive rights education.” The different contraceptives they provide include pills, injectables, implants, and IUD. You can read about the personal experience of one of Scout’s writers at Likhaan here.
Roots of Health
Established in 2009, Roots of Health operates in Palawan as the only reproductive health organization in the area for ten years. What began as a modest team providing reproductive health classes at Palawan State University and in one community, soon grew due to the demands of the province. “Given the lack of support for our issue areas, ROH is providing the majority of reproductive health services on the island,” their website says.
Roots of Health operates in a two-pronged approach: education and service provision. In 2018 they claim that they provided over 20,000 women with contraceptives and taught over 22,000 students.
Family Planning Organization of the Philippines
FPOP asserts itself as the “largest and most prominent non-governmental family planning organization in the Philippines.” Its aim is to “secure universal access to quality family planning information education and services, with a view to enabling people to make active personal decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.”
According to their site they operates over 1,100 services points, “including 29 permanent and 27 mobile clinics and has a network of over 1,000 community-based distributors/community-based services (CBDs/CBSs).” They further claim their clinics “provide voluntary surgical contraception, reversible contraception, medical and laboratory services, and fertility awareness advice.”