No budget for free birth control in the Philippines

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Philippines maternity wardPhilippine supreme lawmakers have scrapped the 2016 budget allocation for free family planning commodities such as condoms, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices, money which was meant to improve birth control in a country which has one of Asia’s highest birth rates, as well as high maternal mortality rates and where abortion is illegal.

The legislature in the mainly Catholic country axed the government’s 1-billion peso ($21.2 million) budget for contraceptives for this year, despite a 2012 law mandating that the state should provide them to the poor. The law requires government health centers to supply free condoms and birth control pills, as well as mandates sex education in schools. It also requires that public health workers receive family planning training.

But Health Secretary Janette Garin said the 2016 budget for contraceptives was removed during the deliberations of the Senate and House bicameral conference committee. It is understood that the law was met with heavy opposition by Catholic groups which were struggling with the government for years over the issue.

The Department of Health now said it will be looking for private donors to fund the birth control campaign.

While contraceptives are widely available in the Philippines, most people are reluctant to regularly use them as they shy away from the costs or simply cannot afford it. In fact, birth control among the poor is non-existent in the country. The country meanwhile has a population of more than 100 million people, of which 25 per cent live in poverty and around 80 per cent are Catholic.

Moreover, half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to a study by Guttmacher Institute, a US-based think tank that promotes reproductive health. Of those unintended pregnancies, 90 per cent are due to a lack of modern methods of contraception, the study says.

Making things worse is that the Philippines has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It’s illegal under all circumstances, including rape, and there’s no clear exception even when the pregnancy jeopardises the woman’s health. But the lack of subsidised or free contraception has drastically increased illegal abortion rates which are estimated at about 610,000 a year.

When Pope Francis visited the Philippines last January, he reiterated the church’s stance on birth control.  While he emphasised the church’s rejection of artificial birth control, he recommended that Catholics should use “natural” family planning methods. He spoke about a woman he met who had seven children and was pregnant again, which he called “irresponsible.”

The costs for a pack of condoms (3 pieces) in the Philippines are around 25 to 45 pesos, which means a pair with an average frequency of sexual activity would probably be set back by around 200 to 300 pesos per month. Birth control pills costs between 350 and 500 pesos for a month’s supply, and birth control implants lasting up to three years cost between 8,000 to 12,000 pesos in private hospitals, which is approximately one month’s salary for even higher skilled workers.

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Philippine supreme lawmakers have scrapped the 2016 budget allocation for free family planning commodities such as condoms, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices, money which was meant to improve birth control in a country which has one of Asia's highest birth rates, as well as high maternal mortality rates and where abortion is illegal. The legislature in the mainly Catholic country axed the government’s 1-billion peso ($21.2 million) budget for contraceptives for this year, despite a 2012 law mandating that the state should provide them to the poor. The law requires government health centers to supply free condoms and birth control...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Philippines maternity wardPhilippine supreme lawmakers have scrapped the 2016 budget allocation for free family planning commodities such as condoms, contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices, money which was meant to improve birth control in a country which has one of Asia’s highest birth rates, as well as high maternal mortality rates and where abortion is illegal.

The legislature in the mainly Catholic country axed the government’s 1-billion peso ($21.2 million) budget for contraceptives for this year, despite a 2012 law mandating that the state should provide them to the poor. The law requires government health centers to supply free condoms and birth control pills, as well as mandates sex education in schools. It also requires that public health workers receive family planning training.

But Health Secretary Janette Garin said the 2016 budget for contraceptives was removed during the deliberations of the Senate and House bicameral conference committee. It is understood that the law was met with heavy opposition by Catholic groups which were struggling with the government for years over the issue.

The Department of Health now said it will be looking for private donors to fund the birth control campaign.

While contraceptives are widely available in the Philippines, most people are reluctant to regularly use them as they shy away from the costs or simply cannot afford it. In fact, birth control among the poor is non-existent in the country. The country meanwhile has a population of more than 100 million people, of which 25 per cent live in poverty and around 80 per cent are Catholic.

Moreover, half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to a study by Guttmacher Institute, a US-based think tank that promotes reproductive health. Of those unintended pregnancies, 90 per cent are due to a lack of modern methods of contraception, the study says.

Making things worse is that the Philippines has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. It’s illegal under all circumstances, including rape, and there’s no clear exception even when the pregnancy jeopardises the woman’s health. But the lack of subsidised or free contraception has drastically increased illegal abortion rates which are estimated at about 610,000 a year.

When Pope Francis visited the Philippines last January, he reiterated the church’s stance on birth control.  While he emphasised the church’s rejection of artificial birth control, he recommended that Catholics should use “natural” family planning methods. He spoke about a woman he met who had seven children and was pregnant again, which he called “irresponsible.”

The costs for a pack of condoms (3 pieces) in the Philippines are around 25 to 45 pesos, which means a pair with an average frequency of sexual activity would probably be set back by around 200 to 300 pesos per month. Birth control pills costs between 350 and 500 pesos for a month’s supply, and birth control implants lasting up to three years cost between 8,000 to 12,000 pesos in private hospitals, which is approximately one month’s salary for even higher skilled workers.

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