“In many ways, 2012 was a banner year for international family planning and reproductive health,” Philip Harvey, president and co-founder of DKT International, and Christopher Purdy, executive vice president of DKT International, write in a post in RH Reality Check, highlighting the London Family Planning Summit and noting contraception “even became an issue in the U.S. presidential election.” Looking forward to 2013, they write that the focus will remain on commitments from the London Family Planning Summit, the role of the private sector in the delivery of products and services, new contraceptive technologies, access to medical abortion, and family planning aid to middle-income countries (1/3).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
The New York Times profiles the Safe Abortion Hot Line in Chile, where abortion has been entirely illegal since 1989. Thirty volunteers throughout Chile operate the telephone hotline, which takes “tense calls from women seeking information about abortion every evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.,” the newspaper writes, adding the volunteers have taken “more than 12,000 calls so far, and they continue rolling in at a steady clip.” The newspaper examines the history of abortion laws in Chile and several other countries in South America; says the country’s Ministry of Women began its own hotline to “answer calls from men or women looking for information or support when facing what the ministry calls an ‘abortion situation’ or ‘post-abortion syndrome'”; describes how the drug misoprostol, which “was taken off pharmacy shelves in Chile under Michelle Bachelet, the former president,” who now heads U.N. Women, is used for safe medical abortions; and discusses the establishment of abortion hotlines in Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela by the group Women on Waves (Nelsen, 1/3).
Jose “Oying” Rimon, deputy director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Ben de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc., write in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that the many people who worked for 14 years to pass a reproductive health bill in the Philippines are “profiles in courage.” They continue, “This is the story of these courageous people but it’s also a story of resolution in staying the course, abiding with scientific evidence and facts, and the nobility of staying positive against on onslaught of insults and misinformation.” The bill represents “an unparalleled educational process in which common sense and science prevailed,” they conclude (1/2).
“The Philippine President has signed into law a family-planning bill that was blocked by the Catholic Church for more than a decade,” Al Jazeera reports (12/28). “President Benigno Aquino III signed into a law a bill that promotes contraception and sex education in schools,” the Wall Street Journal writes, adding, “On Saturday, a deputy presidential spokeswoman confirmed in a statement that Mr. Aquino had quietly signed the act into law on Dec. 21, and it will take effect in January, guaranteeing contraceptives will be available to the poorest Filipinos” (Sandique-Carlos, 12/29).
“Finally, after 14 years of debate and delay, lawmakers [in the Philippines] passed a bill that will provide free or subsidized birth control to poor people as well as require sex education in schools and mandate training in family planning for community health workers,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “For too long in the Philippine Congress, the priorities of the Roman Catholic Church took precedence over what most Filipinos wanted — and needed,” the editorial states. “The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing populations in Asia, and is also one of the most densely populated countries,” the editorial notes, adding, “It cannot produce enough food to feed its 96 million people.”
In GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Mia Mazer, a media and communications intern with the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, writes about the formation of the Mesoamerican Coalition for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, a regional advocacy initiative of more than 40 different organizations that aims to hold governments accountable to a 2008 Ministerial Declaration, titled “Preventing through Education.” As a tool for HIV prevention, the declaration was meant to improve young people’s access to reproductive health services and education, she writes, adding, “But four years later, the ministries have failed to uphold their promise.”
“Lawmakers on Monday approved legislation calling for government-funded contraception and sex education classes in the Philippines, a first in the heavily Catholic nation,” CNN reports (12/17). The House of Representatives and the Senate … approved the Reproductive Health (RH) bill on third and final reading, pushing the controversial bill a step closer to being signed into law,” the Philippine Star writes (Diola/Cerda, 12/17). “Voting 13-8 with no abstention, the Senate passed the RH bill on third and final reading,” Inquirer News notes, adding, “At the House of Representatives, lawmakers voted 133 to 79 with seven abstentions to approve its version of the measure” (Ager/Santos, 12/17).
The latest issue of PSI Impact magazine reviews “the top 10 milestones in global health in 2012” and includes exclusive authored pieces about each, Marshall Stowell, editor-in-chief of the magazine, writes in PSI’s “Impact” blog. Stowell lists the 10 issues and links to the articles, which include, among others: Gary Darmstadt and Chris Elias of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writing about the London Summit on Family Planning; Ariel Pablos-Mendez, assistant administrator for global health at USAID, writing about the Child Survival Call to Action; U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writing about the goal of an “AIDS-free generation”; and Anne Peniston, nutrition chief at USAID, writing about the nutrition movement (12/13).
“After fourteen years of being stuck in Congress, legislators [in the Philippines] finally put to a historic vote and passed the Reproductive Health Bill before dawn Thursday,” Inquirer.net reports. “With 113 votes on affirmative, 104 negative and three abstentions, the RH Bill was approved on second reading, the most critical voting period for a [piece of] legislation,” the news service writes. “The Reproductive Health Bill gives the national government the mandate to make reproductive health services accessible to poor families through information and education and the provision of free contraceptives,” Inquirer.net notes. The news service recaps the vote, quoting several officials, and adds, “The RH Bill has not been certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III and will take three days before it is put to a vote for third and final reading” (Boncocan, 12/13).
In the Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) “Global Health Impact” blog, Barbara Ayotte, director of strategic communications at MSH, reports on a luncheon discussion on the London Summit on Family Planning, held in Boston in November. She notes, “Boston-area international health and development groups — MSH, Pathfinder International, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Ibis Reproductive Health, and the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) — came together” for the event, and she quotes several speakers (12/11).