SC asked to stop 500,000 abortions yearly

SOME alarming statistics relative to population growth and teenage pregnancies have surfaced during the recent National Family Planning Conference, thus strengthening the arguments by reproductive health advocates for the lifting of temporary restraining order (TRO) imposed by the Supreme Court on Reproductive Health law.

Citing the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM executive director said that 500 teenage Filipinas get pregnant every day since 2011, exposing them to the risks of abortion and childbirth complications. 

The study also revealed that there 500,000 unsafe abortions occur in the country every year even as more teens die during childbirth than adults, as do more infants birthed by teens. 

They also discovered that 81 percent of Filipinas who are of reproductive age want to delay or prevent childbearing even as 18 percent of them do not use contraceptives, while 17 percent use traditional methods.

The results of the survey have further convinced the reproductive health advocates push for the lifting of the TRO saying that it would save teenage Filipinas from the dangers of abortions and risky pregnancies.

Health Assistant Secretary Francia Lacsamana is supporting the call for the lifting of the TRO on the RH Law.

“The standing TRO on the certification of modern methods of contraceptives issued by the Supreme Court is one of the roadblocks ahead,” Laxamana declared, pointing out that the order deprives millions of Filipino women who want to practice family planning from accessing contraceptives. 


Narrow Choices

The Duterte administration had aimed to have zero unmet need for family planning. This means the government must provide the four to five million women who want family planning the information and services, both modern and traditional, they need.

“That is the aim of the economic program of this government, which includes, front and center, the implementation of the RH Law without restraint,” Perez said during the forum.

However, the TRO issued by the SC last June 2015 had caused the “disappearance” of about a third of contraceptives in the Philippines, according to the POPCOM chief.

In 2017, another third would be taken out of the market, so that by 2018, there would only be four or five contraceptives in the market that the DOH and local government units could buy.

This means that not only would the choice of available contraceptives be limited, but prices of remaining contraceptives could hike up, Perez said, leaving Filipino mothers, including teens, a very narrow choice.


Draft EO

According to Perez, “the problem” of the TRO had been discussed by the Cabinet. In fact, he said, President Duterte had instructed them to work for the order’s lifting.

There is already a draft executive order awaiting the President's signature to “revitalize or make much stronger” the campaign to reduce the unmet need for family planning in the next five years. Perez looks forward to the signing “soon.”

The EO would direct LGUs, particularly mayors and governors, to conduct community-level campaigns within the following 120 days so that they could identify the women who needed family planning services, and provide these immediately.

The DOH, POPCOM, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development would provide support, while the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management would mobilize resources for family planning in the next five years.


Signature Campaign

While waiting for the EO to be signed, the three groups are gathering a million signatures to urge the SC to lift the TRO.

Perez said they would mobilize the women and youth, as well as go “caroling” at the SC. There would also be candle-lighting events, as well as gatherings to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.

“We hope that the Supreme Court listens to all these different voices,” he said.

With “a good program” and the lifting of the TRO, said Perez, 900 maternal deaths could be reduced every year, and a million unwanted pregnancies could be prevented annually. (J.Veloso with report from Interaksyon)


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