Reproductive Health in the Philippines: A contentious issue

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In the Philippines, Republic Act No. 10354 of 2012 (upheld in 2014) was a groundbreaking policy calling for government-funded contraceptives for all Filipino women.  However, in the capital city of Manila, the battle over reproductive health may not be over.  Executive Order 003 (EO3), issued in 2008, banned public health centers within city limits from distributing contraceptives.  Because of the autonomous nature of Philippine local governance, this order may have the power to supersede the Act.

It’s important to be aware that several national and international organizations have played key roles in this issue. For years, UK-based charity Merlin and the International Federation of Planned Parenthood (IFPP), have provided access to family planning services in the Philippines. Similarly, the Philippines-based Gabriela Women’s Party has been an instrumental force for pushing women’s issues in past legislature, which include reproductive rights.

Opposition has been strong though, through the high social and political influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Over 80% of the population of the Philippines identifies as Catholic so the significance of the Church’s influence cannot be understated  [9]. In fact, there has already been significant backlash from the Church regarding the upheld Act, as they have previously played instrumental roles in preventing the legalization and distribution of contraceptives in the Philippines in year’s prior.

We must demonstrate that there is significant community support and desire for expanded contraceptive access in public health centers in Manila.  The most efficient strategy places Gabriela and Merlin at the forefront; by mobilizing the members that they currently serve, they can make it clear to Mayor Estrada (of Manila) and Manila’s administration that EO3 must be revoked so that Manila can join the rest of its nation for a bright future in reproductive health.

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3 Responses to “Reproductive Health in the Philippines: A contentious issue”

  1. Sinae Sophie Suh Says:

    Family planning is very important issue, especially for developing of communities, women and child health. It is nice to the Phillippines government decide to act upon this matter. In terms of cultural, religious background, it is never easy to intervene these issues from outside. However, easy access to family planning methods, such a contraceptive don’t necessarily mean only for controlling in pregnancy, it could contribute to increasing vary aspects of health concerns like reducing infant mortality, preventing HIV and STDs.
    Since the fact that demand for the contraceptive is clearly increasing, I personally believe that the local government of Manila should not have perspectives for this matter as ‘religious’ conflict, but more for health concern and human (woman) right to make decision.

  2. marlaporte Says:

    Very interesting blog. Thank you for sharing.

    I am interested in finding out why EO3 was put into place in Manila and what are the socioeconomic statistics for the populations growth in this area? Since this country is 80% Catholic, is the population growth expected to soar or become uncontrollable? If so, the local government in Manila should be included in population control discussions with the national government and “have their feet held to the fire” for responsibility for its growth as the largest economic area in the country.

    Also, since the EO3 was passed in 2008 in Manila were oral contraceptives allowed before this order? Is it a matter of the mayor & his people in power in Manila?

  3. kamillegardner1384 Says:

    In Latin America, where Catholicism has also made implementation of family planning programs and services a challenge, through the help of national dialogues between the Ministries of Health, civil society and the international community have reopened the doors for debate on the issue, helping to address the issue of taboo and social stigma surrounding family planning and contraceptive use. Many of these conversations have been initiated by international actors, but have had major impact in policy development and implementation of programs that focus on expanding access to family planning methods. The same could have the same effect in the case in the Philippines.

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