Philippines Has Often Followed Holy See’s Lead on Family Planning

The fortunes of family planning in the Philippines have gone up and down depending on how closely the government followed the Holy See’s playbook, as outlined by Joanne Omang (Vol. XXXIV, No. 2). The inconsistency in government commitment to reproductive health led to a logistical breakdown in services, especially for lower-income people. For 30 years, the Philippine government was fully dependent on the donation of family planning materials by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In 1998, the American government told President Joseph Estrada that the program would be phased out, with the Philippine government agreeing to ensure family planning access for poor Filipino families. But the sudden change in administration in 2001 installed a regime closely allied to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, which then scuttled the national government’s provision of family planning supplies. The catastrophe was most acute in the City of Manila, where an antagonistic mayor literally banned all reproductive health activities for nine years.

The Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Law (the “RH Bill”) is being debated in the Supreme Court. Hopefully this is the last barrier to finally having an official national policy on the provision of reproductive health information, services and supplies agreed by all government branches.

ALBERTO ROMUALDEZ
Chair, Board of Trustees, Catholics for Reproductive Health
Former Secretary of Health, Philippines Department of Health

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