Los Angeles Times: Philippines president signs law easing access to contraceptives

By Kenneth R. Weiss and Sol Vanzi

"Philippines President Benigno Aquino III has signed legislation that will provide modern contraceptives to the nation’s poorest people and mandate sex education in public schools.

Access to birth control is a particularly acrimonious issue in the Philippines, which has the highest birthrates in Southeast Asia and millions of impoverished parents struggling to feed their large families. Half of all pregnancies are unintended and access to modern contraception is mostly limited to those who can afford it.

The new law, among other measures, would overturn Manila’s de facto ban on contraceptives in its public health clinics. The Los Angeles Times in July published a series, 'Beyond 7 billion' chronicling the lives of poor women who scramble every day to care for many more children than they planned to have.

The new law, if carried out, should help reduce the country’s high rates of abortions and maternal deaths as well as alleviate poverty, said Melissa Upreti, Asia regional director of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

'The Philippines has a track record of introducing good laws and not implementing them,' Upreti said. A lengthy court fight, she said, “could delay the implementation of the new law leading to further denial of women's rights with dangerous consequences for their health: more unplanned pregnancies, maternal deaths and unsafe abortions'.”

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