There are currently 6.1-million Filipino women using contraceptives. Additionally, there are 7.3 millions more who have an unmet need for family planning. What happens then to these 13.4-million Filipinas if contraceptives are totally banned from the country?
A year ago I would have said that a total ban is impossible especially since the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the reproductive health law. However, anti-RH groups may have found a formula care of, ironically, the SC as well. The Court’s ruling against lifting the temporary restraining order that put on hold government’s family planning program, ALSO, effectively changed the mandate of the Food and Drugs Administration from being a purely regulatory body, to being quasi-judicial.
FDA issues registrations to medicines and drugs that passed its scrutiny based on scientific studies and factual analysis. FDA decision is final. The SC ruling changed this and said that FDA decision is now appealable to the Court of Appeals. This will totally change the ball game in relation to contraceptives because an FDA registration will amount to nothing but just another step in a very long judicial process of appeals and counter-appeals.
Having followed anti-RH groups’ rhetoric and actions, we can be assured that they will file cases one after another for each contraceptive that FDA approves to prevent women from having access to these. These are the same groups that have used the argument that ALL contraceptives are abortifacient and, therefore, should not be allowed in the market. In fact, the recent SC ruling was because of the petition against the Department of Health and FDA that used contraception equals abortion argument.
Our Justices, because of their ruling, made a total contraceptive ban a possibility.
What will happen is, for as long as there are no new registered contraceptives, stocks in the market will diminish, and eventually, disappear. The government will not be able to buy new commodities unless these are approved by the FDA. Because present government stocks are not infinite, they will either be used up, or if the SC continues to ban some, the contraceptives themselves will expire.
Our honorable Justices committed a grave injustice against our women and their families.
Let me give some examples of what happens when women are without access to family planning information and services.
Magdalena Bacalando is a health worker and President of Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kababaihan, Kabataan, at Ibang Kasarian (PILAKKK). Her work brings her face to face with poor communities and women’s families who have been orphaned because of preventable maternal complications. Many of these women were not supposed to get pregnant due to certain medical conditions but because of lack of access to family planning, they got pregnant, suffered complications, and passed away.
Jessa Alfabete is one of eleven (11) siblings. Her mother started to get pregnant very early on but also, passed away because of Eclampsia as she was giving birth to her eleventh baby. From then on, Jessa had to take over her mother’s responsibilities. She says it is very hard especially since they are also poor. Jessa herself became pregnant as a teenager but now uses contraceptives so she can plan her pregnancy. She is happy that she can do family planning but is apprehensive if supplies will run out.
“Angelica” and “Amor” (not their real names since they are minors, 12 and 13 years old) are siblings and belong to a brood of 12. They live in Payatas and their livelihood is scavenging. They had to give up schooling because of poverty. They now try to earn however they can to help the family, on top of the housework they do. The girls said that they will plan their families in the future and will not allow their present lives to happen to their own children.
Nadezhda Herrera’s story is different. Nikki is educated and belongs to a middle-class family. She uses pills for two reasons, one is because she wants to be in control of her life and does not (yet) want to get pregnant, and two, because she has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. She says that because of her condition, her moods become very erratic and quite difficult to handle. Nikki needs pills to regulate her hormones and prevent more cysts from developing, endometriosis, and ectopic pregnancies.
Nikki says that there are about two-million women in the Philippines with similar condition as hers. For them, pills keep them sane, and alive. She asks, what will happen if pills are banned from the market? What will happen to me and those with the same condition?
These are real stories of real women. Nikki’s question is asked by many others. What will happen if there is a “ban” against contraceptives as what the anti-RH groups want?
According to estimates of the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, for this year alone, around 281,170 teen-aged girls will get pregnant and 5,042 Filipinas will perish due to preventable maternal complications. The numbers will soar even higher without contraceptives. Are we going to allow this? We have not even mentioned the rates of unplanned pregnancies in the country which is almost 40 percent of all pregnancies. Imagine how much higher this will be if we run out of contraceptives.
This is the context by which RH advocates launched the signature campaign asking the Supreme Court to side with our women and our families, and lift the TRO affecting family planning. The target is one million signatures and the campaign will happen in communities and online. If you care for our women and our families, sign the petition here: bit.ly/lifttro or https://www.change.org/p/supreme-court-of-the-philippines-an-appeal-to-the-supreme-court-to-lift-the-tro-affecting-family-planning.
We need the SC to see that its decision has disastrous repercussions. We need the SC to correct the injustice done to our women and our families.
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