[DASH of SAS] Give the gift of choice
It was around Christmas time in 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III quietly signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RH) Act into law. It was the fulfillment of Aquino’s promise to give every Filipino the RH information and services they need to plan for their families.
The passage of the RH law was the gift of the right to choose. Its triumph was the result of decades of tireless lobbying by women’s groups and grassroots leaders. But as far as victory celebrations went, it was a short-lived one.
Opposition groups that tried to block the passage of the law continued to try stop its implementation. While we were distracted by the distressing events of 2016, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the Department of Health (DOH) from procuring and distributing contraceptives, effectively blocking the full implementation of the RH law.
According to the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), the “TRO is based on a petition alleging that all contraceptives are abortifacient; it is aimed at having these vital commodities totally banned from the market. (READ: Lift the TRO now, SC urged)
The unkindest cut of all
Of all the wounds inflicted on the RH law, the unkindest cut of all was a literal one. In January 2015 – almost a year ago – the Senate cut the P1-billion (then equivalent to $21 million) DOH budget allocated for the purchase of contraceptives for poor communities and public health centers as mandated by the RH Law.
The budget cut effectively stripped the DOH of its mandate to service the RH needs of an estimated 13.4 million Filipino women. At least 6.1 million of these women currently use contraceptives, while 7.3 million have an unmet need for contraception.
Since the Supreme Court’s TRO and the budget cut only applied to the government, NGOs and civil society organizations had to pick up the slack and stretch the already limited resources to fill the family planning gap.
Now, while the DOH and other health advocates continue to push for the lifting of the TRO and the full implementation of the RH Law, we can all do our part in helping Filipino women meet their family planning needs.
You can support the following organizations that have been empowering Filipino families to exercise their RH rights even when the health department could not.
1) Roots of Health
Roots of Health (ROH) is one of the few RH organizations in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. It's headed by Ami Evangelista-Swanepoel and husband Marcus, but it is not surprising to see Ami’s mom, Susan, and dad, Oscar, still helping out. It was Susan who first founded and started ROH and remains director.
The poverty incidence in Palawan is more than 60% and you become aware of this once you venture out to the rural areas outside Puerto Princesa.
In the 7 years since they started ROH, one incident remains foremost in Ami’s mind when she thinks about the gap in reproductive health care. In 2015, ROH joined the Philippine Navy on a medical mission to Balabac in southern Palawan. The team traveled 6 hours by land, another 6 hours by boat, and hiked another 2 hours before they finally got to Sitio Melville in Balabac.
People had been waiting for them for about 5 hours already. “The team’s very first client who decided that she wanted an implant was only 30 years old yet had 11 children. Another girl, only 17, came carrying her four-month-old while her three-year-old walked behind her. She wanted an implant, but when she took the prerequisite pregnancy test, it came out positive. She is, for the fourth time in her young life, pregnant,” Ami wrote in an ROH blog post.
“It’s so easy to say that people can buy contraceptives at the drugstore, but that is not the reality for many poor women especially in the rural areas,” Ami added
You can support ROH by clicking this link.
2) Likhaan Center for Women’s Health
In 2000, when Mayor Lito Atienza issued what was effectively a contraception ban, the women could not get contraceptives in any of the Manila Health Clinics (READ: Imposing Misery).
Only natural family planning methods were taught and made available. Women had to depend on the Likhaan midwives and barangay health care workers who went door to door to check on them, keeping track of those who were pregnant or had just given birth to make sure they were getting the medical attention they needed.
Likhaan and their barangay health workers serve as the link between women and the rural health center. They are health clinics on foot, going to the women where they are so they don’t have to worry about who will take care of their children just to get to the clinic.
(Read about Likhaan’s Lina Bacalando and the work of other Barangay Health Workers here.)
Donate now to support Likhaan and the women in the communities the group serves.
Robinsons Bank Corporation, QC, Philippines
BDO Savings Acct
BPI Savings Acct
Account Name: Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc.
Account No : 101650200000809
Account Name: Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc
Account No : 3930114156
Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc
Account No : 3053487377
Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP)
Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) services the communities in Payatas and Bagong Silang, Caloocan which is the biggest barangay in the Philippines with a population of more than 200,000.
In a Facebook message posted by DSWP head Beth Angsioco, the group said it needs medical supplies.
Women in poor communities need your assistance for their RH needs. Perhaps you would like to help those who want to access contraceptive implants free of charge.
This contraceptive method is quite popular because it is effective for 3 years. Imagine the relief we can give to those who want and can avail of this.
The implant is quite expensive to get from private providers. We are told that costs can run from P 6,000 to P 12,000, depending on the doctors and facilities that provide it.
My group, the Dswp Federation, has supplies of implants and this is among the methods we provide to poor women. We also have doctors and nurses who provide family planning services. As you know, because of the Supreme Court TRO, the DOH and all its "agents" are prevented from offering this as a contraceptive method. Thus, only private service providers and civil society groups are able to provide the service.
To meet the big demand from women in poor communities, we need help for the ancillary supplies necessary to do the work.
According to Angsioco, DSWP particularly needs pregnancy test kits. Before women are administered implants, a pregnancy test is needed to verify that the patient is not pregnant.
Contact DSWP through their Facebook page.
If you think the Supreme Court should lift the TRO on contraceptives, make your voice heard by signing this on-line petition to lift the TRO. – Rappler.com
Ana P. Santos is Rappler’s sex and gender columnist. In 2014, she was awarded the Persephone Miel Fellowship by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Santos is not a member or part of any of the women’s health organizations mentioned here.