Philippines: SRHR advocates call on the government to provide contraception and decriminalize abortion

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After UPR: SRHR advocates call on the government to provide contraception and decriminalize abortion
by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
May 12, 2017

In Geneva on 8 May, the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review raised questions on the compliance of the Philippines government with its commitments on reproductive health and rights, including access to abortion. The Netherlands recommended that the Philippine government should take immediate steps to permit abortion when the woman’s life is in danger; when the pregnancy is a result of rape; and in cases of fetal impairment, with a view to decriminalizing abortion in the near future.

PINSAN (Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network) submitted a joint report to the session. In a press release on 9 May, they reported that there are three women dying every day from complications from unsafe abortion in the country, and that over 600,000 Filipino women induce unsafe abortion each year at the risk to their lives, health, liberty, and security.

Sweden recommended that the government ensure that Executive Order No.12, pertaining to the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (2012), is fully implemented in order to meet the need for modern family planning and to secure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. They noted that according to government estimates in 2016, there are still 7.3 million women in the Philippines who have an unmet need for modern contraceptives.

President Duterte’s Executive Order No.12, 9 January 2017, was intended to ensure strict implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law 2012 – to attain and sustain “zero unmet need for modern family planning”. In 2015, in response to an anti-abortion petition, the Supreme Court stopped the Department of Health’s (DOH) programme for the distribution and sale of contraceptive implants and barred the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from “granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices”. Then, in an August 2016 ruling, the Court denied a motion by the DOH to withdraw the order and instead remanded the case to the FDA to check if the contraceptive products had abortifacient side effects (sic). This has effectively blocking access to most birth control products.

Reproductive health advocates have warned that the Philippines stands to run out of contraceptives by 2020. Speaking at a forum organized by House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano this month, Junice Melgar of the Department of Health’s national implementing committee on the Reproductive Health Law said the court’s temporary restraining order on the certification of contraceptive products had far-reaching health implications for women. The director of the DOH’s Family Health Office told the forum: “Slowly, I think they are killing women. Last year, the registration of several products expired. This year, we expect 62% to expire. Next year, a full 90% will be expiring. And by 2020, there will be no contraceptives, nothing.”

In this light, women’s rights and SRHR advocates welcomed the Human Rights Council’s recommendations and called on the government to act urgently to address these sexual and reproductive health and rights issues.

PINSAN Statement, 9 May 2017 ; Philippine Daily Inquirer, by DJ Yap, 8 May 2017 ; Rappler, by Pia Ranada, 11 January 2017 ;  PHOTO: Members of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network display condoms to support the passage of the Reproductive Health bill during a protest outside the presidential palace in Manila on 1 October 2010. © 2010 Reuters

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/after-upr-srhr-advocates-call-on-the-government-to-provide-contraception-and-decriminalize-abortion/

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Video with Nisha Varia – Abortion as a human right

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Video with Nisha Varia - Abortion as a human right

Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network
Published on Apr 12, 2017

We have Nisha Varia, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's women's rights division, as our guest. We discuss the Global Gag Rule and how it will affect the lives of women worldwide. We also talk about abortion as a human right.

Source, video (14:40 mins) Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oax7HDG98nY&feature=youtu.be

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‘There will be more deaths’: NGOs on Trump’s anti-abortion rule

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'There will be more deaths': NGOs on Trump's anti-abortion rule

We asked NGOs how the reinstatement of the ‘global gag’ rule will impact what they do, and the people they work with. Here are some of the responses.

Katherine Purvis and Guardian readers

Thursday 9 February 2017

Three days after his inauguration, Donald Trump reinstated the “global gag” rule, which prohibits the use of US aid money for abortions, prevents NGOs from using private funds for abortion services, from referring women to groups that provide abortions, and even from offering information on services.

We asked NGOs around the world to tell us how the policy impacted them in the past, and what it means for their work today.
Continued at source: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/feb/09/trumps-global-gag-abortion-women-health-ngos

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The 9 countries with the most draconian abortion laws in the world

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The 9 countries with the most draconian abortion laws in the world

by Andree Gorman
Dec. 15, 2016, 11:05

LONDON — In November, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would explore offering Northern Irish women a free and legal means to terminate their pregnancy.

Abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland when a pregnant woman's life is at risk, but the NHS has so far refused to pay for the procedure for those who travel to Britain seeking help.

Sturgeon's plan may offer a way around this. In doing so, she also cast light on abortion laws.

Around the world, 58 of 196 countries provide abortions on request, and 134 of 196 countries only allow abortions to preserve a woman's physical health.

Six countries — El Salvador, Malta, the Vatican, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua — still refuse abortions to women under any circumstances, even if it's to save her life. It means that under many circumstances, such as rape, incest, or if the fetus has a severe abnormality, women still must bring a pregnancy to term.

Developing countries, which have the strictest laws around ending a pregnancy, have the highest unsafe abortion rates. It is estimated that around the world, 78,000 deaths result from unsafe abortions every year. These are the countries with the strictest abortion laws around the globe.

[continued at link]
Source: Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-strictest-abortion-laws-2016-12/#in-the-philippines-women-are-technically-allowed-to-have-abortions-to-save-their-own-lives-but-the-law-does-not-explicitly-state-this-8

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U.N. Committee: Philippines Must Allow Legal Abortion, Improve Access to Contraceptives

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10.14.16 - (PRESS RELEASE) The Philippine government should take measures to legalize abortion in certain circumstances and provide sexual and reproductive health information and services, according to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR Committee).

In its recommendations, the ESCR Committee called on the government to take all measures necessary to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion and maternal mortality, including amending the current abortion law and improving access to both contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. The ESCR Committee also recommended that the state “expand and strengthen comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education” as recommended by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as a result of a special inquiry in 2012.

[continued at link]
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

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U.N. Committee: Philippines Must Provide Access to Modern Contraceptives, Legalize Abortion in Certain Circumstances

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(PRESS RELEASE) The Philippine government must ensure access to modern contraceptives and legalize abortion in certain circumstances, according to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (U.N. CEDAW).

In its recommendations, the U.N. CEDAW expressed concern about the inconsistent implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RPRHA), which was enacted in 2012 and guarantees universal access to modern contraceptives. The U.N. CEDAW further expressed concern about the absence of an effective mechanism to monitor implementation of the RPRHA, as well as the increasing number of unsafe abortions among adolescent girls in the Philippines.

The Philippines has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, imposing a criminal ban on abortion with no clear exceptions. Despite this ban, abortion is common and estimates by the Guttmacher Institute show an increase in its incidence—from approximately 560,000 in 2008 to 610,000 in 2012. Under the RPRHA, abortion remains illegal and punishable as a crime. Proposed amendments to the current penal code aim to increase the penalties for abortion.

Said Melissa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Women in the Philippines have a legal right to modern contraceptives, yet they continue to be barred from getting the reproductive health services they need.

“We commend the U.N. Committee for once again urging the government to fully ensure women’s reproductive health and end discrimination against women by providing access to modern contraceptives and legalizing abortion.

“The Reproductive Health Act was a historic victory for women in the Philippines, but it’s time the government make this law a reality for women who deserve to make their own reproductive health choices and live with dignity.”

The Center, Catholics for Reproductive Health, EnGendeRights, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, Population Services Pilipinas Inc., WomanHealth Philippines Inc. and Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights submitted a joint letter to the U.N. CEDAW emphasizing how the failure to ensure humane and nonjudgmental post-abortion care and provide effective access to justice for reproductive rights violations discriminates against women and girls and egregiously violates their fundamental human rights.

The U.N. CEDAW recommendations also highlight the committee’s concerns regarding bans on modern contraceptives that still exist in part because the Philippine government has not formally declared Executive Orders 003 and 030 of Manila City unlawful—leading to confusion among local health care providers and denials of reproductive health services for women and adolescent girls. In February 2015, the U.N CEDAW also expressed concerns about Executive Order 3 issued by Sorsogon City, which has similarly resulted in the withdrawal of modern contraceptives from local health facilities. An order issued by the Supreme Court in 2015 barring government agencies from approving certain contraceptives has further compounded lack of access to modern contraceptives throughout the country.

In May 2015, U.N. CEDAW released a report criticizing the government for failing to prioritize women’s human rights over religious ideology and cultural stereotypes. U.N. CEDAW experts traveled to the Philippines in November 2012 to conduct a special inquiry under article 8 of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women – the first ever in Asia and the first on sexual and reproductive health and rights - after the Center and other NGOs submitted evidence of human rights violations women were facing mainly due to Executive Order 003, which effectively banned women’s access to modern contraceptives in Manila City. The inquiry request was based on the Center and Likhaan’s report Imposing Misery.

The U.N. CEDAW unequivocally reiterated its call for the Philippine government to immediately and fully implement all of the recommendations resulting from the special inquiry, including:

  • Improve access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services and information
  • Provide access to quality post-abortion care in all public health facilities
  • Review and repeal discriminatory laws, including Manila City’s EOs 003 and 030, to clarify that women have a right to contraceptive information and services as guaranteed in the RPRHA and the Magna Carta of Women;
  • Repeal articles 256–259 of the country’s penal code in order to decriminalize abortion and legalize it on grounds of rape, incest, serious threats to the life or health of the mother and fetal impairment.
  • Ensure access to justice for women whose rights are violated

The Center has been working across Asia for over a decade, including conducting advocacy with local partners to ensure access to modern contraception and safe abortion in the Philippines.

Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

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Philippines: Group welcomes President Duterte’s vow for full Reproductive Health law implementation

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07:50 PM July 25th, 2016

A GROUP that advances women’s rights welcomed President Duterte’s announcement on the full implementation of the Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law).Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, executive director of the non-government organization EnGendeRights, in a statement said it is about time that the RH Law be fully implemented.

The President, in his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) announced that the RH Law must be implemented to curb the population growth and assist the poor in family planning.

“The implementation of the Reproductive Health Law must be put in full force and effect so that couples especially the poor will have freedom of informed choice on the number and spacing of children,” Duterte said.

The RH Law guarantees universal access to methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education and maternal care.

“We really need the provisions of the RH Law to be implemented fully. We badly need the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) should implement a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum from elementary through college,” Padilla said.

She noted that one out of every 10 adolescent women aged 15-19 is already a mother and there are 25 new HIV cases a day while the unintended pregnancy is high with three in ten births unwanted or mistimed and only 38 percent of women aged 15-49 use modern contraceptives.

Due to high unintended pregnancy, she said “high incidence of rape with one woman raped every 71 minutes, unavailability of emergency contraception, lack of access to safe and legal abortion and even lack of access to humane, nonjudgmental, compassionate post-abortion care, we have three women dying every day from complications from unsafe abortion.”

“That’s why we are hopeful that under President Duterte’s administration, we will have access to the full range of comprehensive methods including emergency contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and access to humane, nonjudgmental, and compassionate post-abortion care,” she added.

Source: Inquirer.net (Philippines)
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How the ‘abstinence-only’ approach to contraception just leads to more sex in the Philippines

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‘They showed us videos of live abortions before prom’

Kristy Drutman

June 23, 2016

Currently based in the Philippines, I am exploring the culture and lifestyle of young Filipina women. The first topic I wanted to explore was reproductive health and taboos around sex across the nation. The Philippines is a predominately Catholic country, meaning that church leaders hold strong political and social influence over citizens. Compared to more Westernized views around a liberated sex-life, Filipino views on  sexuality are notably conservative and not an open topic for discussion. According to the church, sex is considered to be strictly reserved for married men and women and anything beyond this, other than the exception of polygamous relationships in parts of the country, is viewed as immoral and inappropriate.

The Philippines is both praised and criticized for its collectivist, family-oriented culture that  can at times promote a ‘bandwagon’ mentality around how a Filipino/a should conduct themselves. As a part of this ‘collective’ community, Filipinos are expected to uphold the values of their communities above their personal beliefs on a particular issue. This extends from clothing and prayer to what you can and can not do in the bedroom.

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But here’s where it gets confusing.

In a country that boasts such traditional ideals, the Philippines ironically has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies within  the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) according to the UN Population Fund.

According to the Philippines’ 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study,  1 in 3 Filipino youth aged 15-24 has engaged in pre-marital sex. Among these 1 in 3 youth, 73.4% of males and 83.8% if females did not use any form of protection from unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases during their first sexual action. Although the government is trying to push forward greater moves toward contraception through the latest Reproductive Health Bill, it will take a significantly greater push to overhaul the country’s embedded cultural values.

This paradox astounded me and  immediately asked my cousin Natasha, 21, a young Filipina woman from Cagayan De Oro in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines to offer her personal insights regarding this epidemic.

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Natasha explained that sexual education was not mandatory in her primary education. When it came to sex-ed Natasha said, “I mean, they taught us the reproductive organs and such when we were kids, and the sort of changes our bodies were about to go through, but nobody ever talked about sex, specifically. Even at home, sex was pretty much a taboo subject.

“I wasn’t allowed to watch television shows that depicted sexual scenes, and for a period of time, I believed babies were made in factories.”

While this innocent form of ‘abstinence-only’ teachings may be appropriate for children, Natasha believed her lack of access to  a robust sex-ed program was challenging for her as an adolescent.  As a high school student, Natasha and her classmates  were taught what it meant to be a ‘proper’ man  and woman in the eyes of God, and this involved avoiding sex altogether until it was a holy union.

“During our junior prom, they divided the boys and the girls, and led us girls to a different area to talk about manners and etiquette and the ways of being a lady. This happened around 6 years ago, so I don’t quite remember the specifics, but they showed us a videos of live abortions before prom.

“After the video finished playing, they gave a talk about how ineffective condoms were because there were tiny holes in the rubber that would still allow sperm to swim through,  and that the best kind of contraceptive was abstinence, especially since it was written in the bible that men and women were only supposed to lay with one person in their entire lives. ”

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Natasha thought she could escape the traumatizing images and moral hierarchies when she left for university, but they instead continued to haunt her.  Even though methods of contraception and biological descriptions of intercourse were finally introduced in her classes, abstinence still held precedence. This works to instill fear and guilt in young men and women into believing that not following abstinence is, “disrespecting your body as God’s creation.”

Despite these scare tactics, Natasha is convinced that this simply encourages more men and women to have clandestine hook-ups and to not ask the right questions before having sex. She said: “It’s pretty common knowledge that if you tell someone not to do something, curiosity eventually wins over and they end up doing it anyway.  I mean, if we’re going to end up doing it anyway, wouldn’t it be better to equip us with the knowledge to be responsible about it, instead of shoving everything under the rug of abstinence and scaring us?”

Instead of receiving education about sex through family members or school, young Filipinos rely on pornography, social media or just what their friends tell them on the streets.

She said: “I had a friend come to me once in a panic because he was afraid that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant by rubbing his penis against her underwear-clad vagina. Another friend thought it would be a good idea to give his girlfriend Nordette every time he thought he got her pregnant… people think that the pull-out method works fine, because they’re too scared or ashamed to go to a drugstore and pick up some condoms. ”

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She believes that the stigma around sex and continuation of the Catholic Church’s dominance over these matters continues to leave young people in dangerous, confusing, and stressful situations.  The increase in unwanted pregnancies and STDs that continue to rise in both urban and rural areas of the Philippines, in Natasha’s opinion, is primarily due to a lack of education and the perpetuation of a negative, unrealistic standard of ‘abstinence-only’ culture.

Natasha said: “Sex isn’t bad. You know what’s bad? Women performing back alley abortions on themselves because she doesn’t want her family to know she got pregnant outside of marriage. Women who are terrified of being disowned by their families just because they got pregnant. Women who are shamed into keeping their babies because it’s the right thing to do, and not receiving any help in raising the child.”

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Some other quotes I received from young Filipinos living in both Manila, the capital of the Philippines and those from Natasha’s community in Cagayan De Oro regarding their views on why pre-marital sex is so high in the Philippines:

Renzo, 20

“Sexual education here is just horrible. I mean sure most private schools give some sexual education but it doesn’t have a big impact on most students… All they know is what they find on social media or tv, which more often than not is over-glorified.”

Ronalyn, 22

“The lack of sexual education and contraception in the Philippines continues to force women, particularly those living in rural areas who do not have access to health education, into an alarming cycle of poverty.”

Anonymous, 20

“When I was a kid I thought that the only difference between making out and having sex was that sex was done on a bed.”

Anonymous, 19

“I have never actually met anyone my age that was against [The Reproductive Health Bill] usually just the older generations because the church advertises against it.”

After hearing all of these stories from young people in the Phillipines, I spoke with Ray-an B. Talatala, MAN, MN, RN, an Internationally-recognized Nurse Leader, Educator and Operating Room Nurse in Cagayan De Oro for his insights on teenage pregnancy.

Due to the current overpopulation crisis in the Philippines, Ray-an said: “There should be more research done regarding the causes of the rise in pre-marital sex in the Philippines whether that be due to technology or social media, family, culture, access to education and so forth.”

He also believes that the church should become more open to sex-ed so, “both young men and young women will know about proper contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”

He sees a variety of clientele, mostly single mothers who were abandoned by their partners and do not have an adequate source of income to care for their children. Along with abandonment, he cautioned, “when it comes to unwanted teenage pregnancies, there are really huge risk factors involved. One of the complications is pregnancy induced hypertension. Many of my patients suffered from an onset of high blood pressure and some even died. So we really need to address this issue or else we will continue to see a rise in maternal mortality rates.”

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As a nurse, Ray-An believes it is his responsibility as a health care practitioner to promote sexual education as a form of preventative care to all his clients. But he believes: “Every person in [Filipino] society has a role, from parents to schools to the church in this conversation regarding sexual health and young people.”

Ray-an derives a lot of hope from the Reproductive Health Law (RA 10354) to really create an impact and make a paradigm shift related to sex education in the Philippines. He argued: “It all boils down to education and negative attitudes regarding contraceptives. I think the Philippines should be ready. I hope the measures that are implemented by the government are effective and that they are continuously monitored [in preventing teenage pregnancy].”

When asked if teaching about the use of ‘artificial’ contraceptives aside from natural means of contraception will challenge or threaten Filipino tradition, Ray-an said: “I don’t think we have to change our tradition but we have to be at par with the latest trends in birth control, without compromising our values, norms and religious beliefs.

“We already embrace modernization so I do not see what stops us from embracing the up-to-date trends in reproductive health is concerned especially access to sex education. It’s one of my commitments and advocacy as a nurse to ensure the safety of our young people so that they will be more aware of the risks associated with teenage pregnancy and pre-marital sex.”

Source: The Tab

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