Women in the Philippines Lack Access to Safe Abortion Care and Contraceptives

This week Reuters examines the challenges facing women in the Philippines where abortion is legal only in cases of life endangerment and reliable contraceptives are difficult to obtain. In the Philippines, the majority of the population obtains contraceptives from the U.S. government agency USAID, which has been the largest supplier of contraceptives in the country for more than 30 years. However, as part of a plan to help the Philippines achieve self-sufficiency in family planning, USAID has started phasing out supplies and plans to end its donation program in 2008.

Government officials in this predominantly Roman Catholic country are reluctant to fund or supply oral contraceptives and condoms. Instead they encourage people to use natural family planning methods, which have a high failure rate. According to a survey by the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of the women who have had an abortion in the Philippines were not using any family planning methods, and of those who were, three-quarters were using natural methods advocated by the government, such as rhythm or withdrawal.

Illegal abortion is a national health issue for women in the Philippines. Many women are forced to self-induce or seek dangerous back-alley procedures in order to end an unwanted pregnancy. Nearly 80,000 women in the Philippines are treated in hospitals annually for complications from induced abortion, and at least 800 women are estimated to die every year from complications, according to health reports.

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