By MIA FREEDMAN
For decades, the contraceptive pill has been allowing women to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
And now it’s saving poverty stricken countries.
Or at least it could be.
The president of The Philippines, Benigno Aquino, wants to give people free access to the pill as a means to save his country from it’s current poverty-ridden state.
If the Reproductive Health Bill is passed by the government, it will not only give the Filipino people access to free birth control, but also access to sex education.
The idea is that the combination of education and contraception will allow families to limit the number of children they’re having. And that in turn means less children born into poor families.
How revolutionary. And brilliant. And also obvious. Surely there are lessons here for other countries including Western ones?
The Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations of South East Asia – but they also have a population that is extremely poor. In one of the countries biggest cities, Mindanao, 30.3 per cent of people had nothing to eat for at least one day in the three months to August, according to this recent report.
So if the people can’t afford food, what’s the chance they can afford contraception?
Not a lot.
39-year-old Cabiya-an is the kind of woman who’s family would benefit from the pill bill. Cabiya-an has 14 children – the oldest in 22 and the youngest is 11 months – and lives in a hut in the Manila slum.
This from NBS News:
“It’s tough when you have so many children,” said Cabiya-an, a shy smile revealing poor teeth. “I have to count them before I go to sleep to make sure no one’s missing.”
At one time Cabiya-an had access to contraception but Manila mayor Jose Atienza, a devout Catholic, swept contraceptives from the shelves of city-run clinics in 2000.
With income of about 7,600 pesos ($180) a month from doing laundry and her husband’s pay as a laborer, Cabiya-an has only been able to send five of her children to school.
The others would appear doomed to join the quarter of the country’s 95 million people stuck below the poverty line.
A recent study in the US which looked at the effect free birth control had on reducing rates of pregnancy, found the rate of unwanted pregnancies dropped dramatically when women were given the contraceptive pill for free.
The participants were all “uninsured, low-income, or otherwise determined to be at risk for unintended pregnancy” and were offered a range of birth control methods – including the IUD and the pill.
While the average rate of pregnancy for teenage girls in U.S. is 34.3 per 1,000, the women who participated in the two-year study recorded a pregnancy rate of only 6.3 per 1000. And the abortion rate was also dramatically lower.
So there’s adequate reason to believe that if the bill was passed – the birth rate would drop in The Philippines.
But before the Filipinos can start giving away the pill they have to get past the Catholic Church who, unsurprisingly, strongly oppose the idea of free contraception.
No surprises there.
More from NBC News:
It says artificial contraception is immoral, and the bill will pave the way to legalizing abortion. The bill does not legalize abortion though it seeks to improve care for women suffering from complications after an illegal abortion.
The church says people should use natural family planning.
It says poverty is a cause, not effect, of a high birth rate. Children are being born into homes without enough food to eat because of the government’s failure to end corruption and provide jobs, the bishops say.
“It’s our firm belief that contraceptives will never be the answer,” said Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.
Eighty per cent of people in The Philippines are Catholic. And 70 per cent of people support this idea.
It just seems so logical. Everybody on both ‘sides’ of the fertility choices debate in every country agrees that fewer abortions would be a good thing.
In fact one mantra of the pro choice movement is “Safe, affordable, rare”.
So if sex education and free contraception will dramatically reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies (and thus abortions, child abuse, child neglect, poverty etc) then surely this is a no-brainer?
Why is nobody here discussing it? Why has it never been raised as an option by any political party? Why?