Family Planning

Family planning policy has changed over the years but one thing has not changed –and that is the influence of the Catholic Church on this issue. About 85% of the population are Catholic thus the Church wields tremendous influence on the people, and even on the different administrations. Former President, Corazon Aquino, who was strongly supported by the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, supported the Church’s position against artificial methods of family planning. While her successor, former President Fidel V. Ramos had a more liberal policy, subsequent administrations have adhered to the usual Catholic Church position.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo initially issued confusing statements on her family planning policy. For someone who admitted using pills in her early years as a mother and wife, she rejected the purchase of family planning, specifically contraceptive supplies, to woo the Church which supported the outster of her predecessor, Joseph Estrada. She also passed on the responsibility of family planning and reproductive health to the local government units. Government health workers and NGOs who are aware and exposed to the realities of population management agree that Mrs. Arroyo’s position had created a negative effect on the country’s population. Thus, the poor people, especially women, remained uninformed of all options available to them to limit or space their children. This position was further strengthened by a DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (DOH) Administrative Order 125 requiring government health workers to promote natural fmaily planning as the "the only acceptable mode of birth control." It promotes the program under the battle cry of "responsible parenthood."

The Arroyo administration, through the DOH, awarded P50 million to the religious group Couples for Christ (CFC) in 2004 to fund a government program called Responsible Parenthood-Natural Family Planning (RP-NFP). Other than NFP, the CFC considers sex education, contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, and population control as "anti-life." Many believed that the deal violated the principle of separation of church and state, as the CFC is known to have links with the Catholic Church. CFC in its trainings also denouced the use of artificial contraception, which earned the criticism of health practitioners since natural contraception has a high failure rate of seven per 100 cases. A study in 1995 by four experts led by Haishan Fu for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, found that abstinence, the core of natural family planning, had a 22% failure rate while withdrawal had 26%. (The Standard Days Method, which the Church promotes, requires abstinence of up to 12 days.) The study also found that implant and injectables have the lowest failure rates (2% – 4%), followed by the pill (9%), the diaphragm and the cervical cap (13%), and the male condom (15%).

Dr. Junice Melgar, head of the NGO Linangan ng Kababaihan or Likhaan, in a paper noted that "women’s health is now being sacrificed for political expediency." The current government’s policy is pushing more women into unsafe pregnancies, to resort to abortion, and probably even death. Likhaan also noted the adverse effects of the contraceptive ban in the city of Manila under former Mayor Lito Atienza.

The 2006 Family Planning Survey results showed that:

  • There had been no improvement in the use of modern family planning method with 36 for every 100 married women using modern family planning method in 2006, the same as the previous year’s rate of modern contraceptive use.
  • The contraceptive prevalence rate or the proportion of women using any FP method hardly changed at 50.6% in 2006 compared to 49.3%in 2005.
  • The pill remains the most preferred method of contraception used by 16.6% of married women in 2006; followed by ligation or female sterilization (10.4%). Withdrawal was reported as the FP method for 7.3%; calendar method, 7.0%; and IUD, 4.1%. Modern natural family planning methods, which includes Mucus/Billing/Ovulation, Lactational Amenorrhea Method, and Standard Days Method were used by 0.3% of married women. More women in the urban areas opted for female sterilization than in rural areas.
  • Central Luzon (58.9%) had the highest CPR followed by Cagayan Valley (58.6%), Southern Mindanao (57.2%), and Northern Mindanao (55.4%). On the use of modern FP methods, Cagayan Valley topped all regions while ARMM was the last and Bicol Region second to last.
  • Age, education and socio-economic status play a vital role in a woman’s decision to practice family. Contraceptive use was highest among married women at ages 35 to 39 years (58.2%) and was lowest at ages 15 to 19 years (23.3 %). Four in ten (39.1%) married women in the oldest age group (45 to 49 years) were still using contraceptives in 2006.
  • Married women with some elementary education were less likely to practice FP than women with higher level of education. Those with no education were the least likely to practice it. Two out of 10 women with no grade completed, and four out of 10 with some elementary education practice FP. By comparison, at least five out of 10 women having higher level of education practice FP.
  • The use of FP method among women belonging to non-poor households was higher than among those belonging to poor households (52.4% versus 47.3%). The difference is mainly due to the higher prevalence of female sterilization among non-poor women than poor women.
  • More women are turning to the private sector as shown in the significant shift in the sources of pills and condoms from the public sector to private sector. The private sector provided most recent supply of pills to 56.6% of users of this method in 2006 compared to 46.5% in 2005. The private sector was also the most recent source of condom for 82.7% of women in 2006 compared to 73.7%.

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