Funds for contraceptive implants scrapped; PopCom alarmed
Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s “regrettable” move to scrap the P195-million budget meant for contraceptive implants would only worsen the problem of teenage pregnancy, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) warned on Friday.
PopCom executive director Juan Antonio Perez III explained that the progestin subdermal implants cater mainly to young mothers, so that removing access to them would hamper “efforts to reduce repeat teen pregnancies across the Philippines,” which have become “a national social emergency,” according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.
Based on PopCom’s data, the country needs a supply of 200,000 implants every six months. Without the budget, the current stock of 190,000 implants of the Department of Health (DOH) would be depleted by the middle of next year. “The action of the Senate President is regrettable since there is no scientific basis for [the] removal of [the implants’ budget]. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not declared them as contrary to the provisions of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law,” Perez said.
Sotto had earlier said that he moved to slash the DOH’s P195-million budget next year for the implants which, he claimed, are abortifacients.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has since disputed Sotto’s claim.
“The FDA has already cleared this product as nonabortifacient. Let’s leave it at that because the [FDA has] technical people who know what is harmful or what is safe … in accordance with their stringent standards of safety, efficacy and quality,” Duque said.
Injectables’ fundIn a text message on Friday, Sotto said “what we removed was merely the fund for injectables, which are still the subject of a petition in the (Office of the President).”
He stressed that “the funds for condoms and other commodities remain intact.’’
On its website, the DOH said that the subdermal implant was an “effective approach” for women to have a “more beneficial and convenient manner of birth spacing.” An implant, the agency said, consists of a single, matchstick-sized rod containing the hormone progestin.“The contraceptive implant is inserted in the left arm of right-handed women and vice versa, and can provide protection for up to three years,” the DOH said.
“The injectable prevents the meeting of the egg and the sperm by preventing the release of a mature egg from the ovary. It also thickens the cervical mucus in the neck [top] of the uterus, making it difficult for the sperm to pass through,” it added. In August, Pernia expressed alarm at the rise of teenage pregnancy in the country. A 2017 National Demographic Health Survey showed that 9 percent of Filipino women between 15 and 19 years of age have begun childbearing, resulting in estimates of up to 24 babies born to teenage mothers every hour.
Family planning budget
Perez pointed out that rather than cut the budget for contraceptives, more funds are needed for the country’s family planning program.
“Our assessment is that [the program] is still underfunded, to the tune of at least P1.5 billion. Any action to reduce the current underfunding will be contrary to President Duterte’s stated priorities on population matters,” Perez said.
Health advocacy group The Forum for Family Planning and Development said that defunding the program to procure implants would put women and their families at a disadvantage.
“What is at stake here is the interest of women who want to space their pregnancies so that they and their children and families are healthy,” The Forum president Benjamin de Leon said.
He noted that without the wide variety of family planning options, women would not know what is best for them.“Denying [women] a highly effective method is also denying our country, especially households in poor communities, a chance to develop,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM DJ YAP
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