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Ignoring the truth in the Philippines

May 12, 2009
Fighting for their rights

Fighting for their rights

I would like to point your attention to this excellent post today on the blog RH Reality Check, about the sad state of reproductive rights and health in the Philippines.  Family planning has been a crisis situation in the Philippines for a very long time.  This smattering of more than 7,000 tiny islands in the Pacific is home to about 90 million people, the majority of whom are very poor.  The government is very conservative and very Catholic…and very much against “artificial” family planning.

In fact, in 2000 the then-Mayor of Manila issued an effective BAN on contraceptives in city-funded clinics — aka clinics that are a lifeline to the area’s poorest women.  There’s a chilling report of the effects of this ban.  The fight to undo this ban is still ongoing.

Fast forward nine years to the present day, where contraceptive pills, condoms, injectibles and other “artificial” methods are scarcely available to those who need and want them…and instead the government has declared this month “Natural Family Planning Month.”  Natural family planning may work for some, but more reliable methods are needed…and more importantly, wanted by women and their partners. This new report by the Guttmacher Institute is chock full of figure that don’t lie, but are crying out for action.

Hope springs eternal and there may be change ahead.  Currently, the “Reproductive Health Bill,” as it’s being called, languishes in Congress amidst heated debate, but, if passed, could mean guaranteed comprehensive sexuality education in schools, access to a wide range of contraceptives for all individuals, and help in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.  A recent poll shows that 63% of Filipinos favor the passing of the Bill which would grant new reproductive health access and rights to millions.

Not surprisingly, the Catholic Church vehemently opposes the bill, which they say is a slippery slope toward legalizing abortion.  Now, I don’t know about that but it doesn’t hurt to mention here that unsafe abortion is a rampant problem and access to family planning would reduce the need for women to put themselves at such terrible risk.

So, stay abreast of what’s happening in the Philippines.  It’s life or death for hundreds of thousands of women without access, and big changes could be up ahead…

J.Mack is a global feminist residing in Brooklyn.

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