Poor Mothers Snap Up Free Contraception in Philippines

A doctor inserts a contraceptive implant into a housewife’s arm as part of family planning services in the poor residential district of Baseco yesterday

Jonalyn Corpuz struggled to hold on to her three-month-old son throwing a tantrum as she waited in line for free contraceptive implants in Manila’s slum district of Tondo. The mother-of-four, 27, silenced the infant by breastfeeding him.

“I had no one to leave my son with at home so I just brought him with me,” she said. “I couldn’t pass up on this chance to get free implants. I don’t want to have any more children but I don’t have the money to buy the implants.”

Less than 15 minutes later, Corpuz came out of a makeshift cubicle with a bandage on her left arm. The small, plastic-like implant, resembling a piece of noodle, will sit under her skin releasing contraceptive compounds for the next three years.

“It was painless,” she said, smiling. “It’s more painful to have more children.”

Corpuz was among hundreds of mothers who signed up for free implants and injections, ligation, birth control pills and other reproductive health services at a family planning fair in Baseco, the largest slum village in Tondo. The fair was organised by the Manila-based Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health in partnership with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the European Union and other local groups to mark World Population Day yesterday.

“This is a model for family planning services that government must provide for those who have no access or who cannot afford such services,” said Likhaan’s Joy Salgado.
“This fair shows that there are really many women, especially poor women, who are in need of reproductive health services,” she said.

According to UNFPA, the percentage of Philippine women who do not want to become pregnant but have no access to contraception or cannot afford it has risen to 19.3% in 2011 from 15.7% in 2006.

“The unmet need is highest among poor women, adolescent girls, women with no education and women from the strife-torn southern Philippines,” the agency said in a statement. Efforts by the government to promote birth control in the predominantly Catholic Philippines have been hampered by strong opposition by the church, which demonizes any family planning campaign as evil and anti-family.

A proposed reproductive health law that would ensure access to family planning and women’s health services has been pending in Congress for the past 11 years, amid strong lobbying by the Catholic Church and other religious groups.

But Salgado said advocates are hopeful that Congress would finally pass the bill: “It’s about time that we put in place a reproductive health law that will serve the needs of the poorest women.”

The Philippines’ population is projected to hit 97.6mn this year and to top 100mn in 2014, according to the Commission on Population.

The country’s official population stood at 92.34mn as of May 2010 and is growing at an average rate of 1.9% per year, according to the National Statistics Office.

At the fair, more than 50 mothers received the contraceptive implant called Implanon that would be effective for three years. Dozens more signed up for referrals to volunteer doctors to get the implants for free at a later date.

Doctor Abe Marinduque, a volunteer gynecologist, said he first learned of the implant through foreign patients looking for it and worked with reproductive health organisations to bring the product to the Philippines.

“As you can see, there are a lot of takers,” he said as he injected the implant to this 30th patient. “It’s very convenient. It’s a very private method and they don’t have to worry about it. It takes just one shot, and then three years of bliss.”

Faija Pindatun, 17, also wanted to get the implant but decided to instead receive a free contraceptive injection that would be effective for three months because she had to rush back home.

“My husband doesn’t know I’m here,” she said, asking that a false name be used to hide her identity. “He doesn’t approve of this and would be mad if he finds out.”

Pindatu, who received the shot as she carried her three-month daughter, said her husband beats her up when she refuses to have sex with him.

“I know he wants to have more children but I’m happy to have just one,” she said. “I’m safe for the next three months.” DPA

Source: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=518354&version=1&template_id=45&parent_id=25


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