A Right to Contraception in the Philippines

The New York Times ran an eye-opening story about a bill in the Philippines that would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services, including condoms and birth control pills.

Should the bill, called the Reproductive Health Bill, pass, it would effectively nullify the complete ban on birth control in Manila City that the Center has been fighting since 2008. The bill’s language clearly states that any legislation inconsistent with the federal law will be repealed.

In 2008, a case was filed by 20 Manila citizens claiming that the policy has violated their human rights and should be revoked immediately. The case, Lourdes Osil et al. v. Mayor of Manila, is based directly on an investigation conducted by the Center in collaboration with local partners Likhaan and Reprocen.

The case was originally filed in the Philippine Court of Appeals, but was dismissed on questionable technical grounds. When a request to reconsider was denied, the petitioners filed an appeal before the Supreme Court which also dismissed the case on technical grounds. The petitioners are continuing their battle and have filed the case in the Regional Trial Court where it is currently pending.

The Reproductive Health Bill is a critical opportunity for Filipino legislators to bring the Philippines back into compliance with its binding human rights obligations — and finally cease the horrific war on women in Manila City. The Center continues to press the Philippines at the UN and on the national level to pass the RH Bill.

More about Manila’s Contraception Ban

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, and Manila City sought to make the situation worse when former Mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza passed a blanket ban on contraception in 2000. This ban effectively prohibits Manila City women — especially poor women — from accessing all forms of modern contraceptives, condoms, and information necessary to protect their reproductive health. As a result, women are unable to prevent pregnancy, even when it would jeopardize their lives, health, or ability to feed their families.

 Some Facts:

Arrow More than half of the Philippines’ 3.4 million annual pregnancies are unintended.

Arrow Expanding access to contraception could result in 800,000 fewer unplanned births, 500,000 fewer induced abortions and 200,000 fewer miscarriages.

Arrow Expanding access to contraception could prevent as many as 2,100 maternal deaths each year.

[Information provided by the Guttmacher Institute, “Meeting Women’s Contraceptive Needs in the Philippines”]

For a woman who cannot afford contraceptives and is forced to have more children that she wants or can afford, the harsh effect of the ban is felt every day — when she is forced to limit the amount of rice she can provide for her children, when she is abused by her husband for declining sex to avoid pregnancy, or when she is forced to endanger her health with high-risk pregnancies that she could not prevent.

International legal bodies have repeatedly condemned the grave and systematic impact of the Manila City ban. Yet the national government has done nothing thus far to mitigate this impact or strike down the ban.

Get Involved:

Facebook Cause Logo

Facebook Causes: End the Birth Control Ban in the Philippines

Combining the Center's expertise with the power of leading attorneys, advocacy partners and 20 petitioners, we filed a lawsuit to stop this ban and restore the health of thousands of Filipino women and their families. Join our Cause on Facebook today and stand up against the ban!

Imposing Misery

Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila's Contraception Ban on Women and Families

The Center, Likhaan and ReproCen have released a report documenting the devastating impact of Manila's contraception ban on women and their families. The report, Imposing Misery: The Impact of Manila's Contraception Ban on Women and Families, is based on a series of compelling interviews with women affected by the ban, government and health officials, and nongovernmental organizations. Its conclusions are clear: the ban harms the lives and health of women, as well as their families, by depriving them of the basic human right to make decisions about their own bodies and whether and when to have children. Further, the report establishes that the ban violates national and international law. Read the report >

Reproductive Health Bill

The RH bill: Ending Manila City's War on Women

Two of the Center's International Legal Program fellows, Payal Shah and Jamie Gher, authored an article on ABS-CBN News about the devastating impact the contraception ban in Manila City has had on its women and their families. The Reproductive Health Bill, currently being considered by Filipino lawmakers, would effectively nullify the Manila City ban if passed. Read the article >