MANILA — After a ferocious national debate that pitted family members against one another, and some faithful Catholics against their church, the Philippine Congress passed legislation on Monday to help the country’s poorest women gain access to birth control…
…The measure had been stalled for more than a decade because of determined opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Roughly four-fifths of Filipinos are Catholic.
Birth control is legal and widely available in the Philippines for people who can afford it, particularly those living in cities. But condoms, birth control pills and other methods can be difficult to find in rural areas, and their cost puts them out of reach for the very poor.
“Some local governments have passed local ordinances that banned the sale of condoms and contraceptives and forbid their distribution in government clinics, where most poor Filipinos turn for health care,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on the issue, adding that the new bill would override such ordinances.
The measure passed on Monday would stock government health centers, including those in remote areas, with free or subsidized birth control options for the poor. It would require sex education in public schools and family-planning training for community health officers. The Philippines has one of the highest birthrates in Asia, but backers of the legislation, including the Aquino administration, have said repeatedly that its purpose is not to limit population growth. Rather, they say, the bill is meant to offer poor families the same reproductive health options that wealthier people in the country enjoy.
The United Nations Population Fund estimates that half of the 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines each year are unintended, and that there are 11 pregnancy-related deaths in the country each day, on average. Most of those could be avoided, the organization says, through improved maternal health care, a need that proponents say the new legislation will directly address.
Catholic Church officials took a hard line against the measure, saying it was out of line with the beliefs of most religious Filipinos. The church equated contraception with abortion, which is illegal in the Philippines…
The Catholic Church, sticking it to the poor like only they can. Thankfully they were unsuccessful in the end, but they did tie up access to life saving contraception for 10 years while an avg of 11 women died every day from lack of access to contraception. That’s about 40,000 deaths you can add to their score card.