“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.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
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).
Noting the recognition of International Human Rights Day on December 9, Purnima Mane, president and CEO of Pathfinder International, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, “[E]very person should be able to make decisions about her or his body,” making reproductive rights a human rights issue. “From the London Summit on Family Planning supported by Melinda Gates, where thousands gathered to commit future investments in family planning, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong advocacy to ensure U.S. leadership in global health that includes reproductive rights as human rights, to the work that’s happening on the ground in myriad countries around the globe to provide contraception, improve maternal health, ensure HIV prevention and treatment, and much more — progress is happening,” Mane writes, noting some of the barriers and challenges that remain in “[e]stablishing reproductive rights as human rights for all” (12/9).
Noting the U.S. government on Thursday “unveiled a major new strategy for pushing towards achieving an ‘AIDS-free generation,'” Inter Press Service writes, “The far-reaching new blueprint for what’s known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is being widely lauded, yet little attention has been given to a document, published in October, that stipulates how new PEPFAR funding can be used.” The news service notes, “[a]ccording to that guidance, ‘PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities.'” “The language in the guidance was put there to make clear what exactly (PEPFAR) could and couldn’t pay for — that’s problematic,’ Mary Beth Hastings with the Center for Health and Gender Equity, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS,” the news service writes. An unnamed spokesperson from PEPFAR “told IPS … that ‘there are other entities, particularly USAID, that meet that need [for family planning]. We’re very interested in integrating our services,'” the news service writes (Biron, 11/29).
In the Huffington Post’s “World” blog, writer Marianne Schnall interviews Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “about why she considers family planning such a vital issue, how she views the role of philanthropy, her excitement over a new crowdfunding platform she helped launch called Catapult, and the many ways she says giving has enriched her life.” Schnall writes, “Controversy over reproductive rights has been at the forefront of our national conversation, but philanthropist Melinda Gates would like to take the controversy out and transform the narrative into a global one through education and advocacy.”
Chinese officials are considering changing the country’s so-called “one-child policy,” according to a former family planning official, “with government advisory bodies drafting proposals in the face of a rapidly aging society in the world’s most populous nation,” Reuters reports. “Proposed changes would allow for urban couples to have a second child, even if one of the parents is themselves not an only child, the China Daily cited Zhang Weiqing, the former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, as saying on Wednesday,” according to Reuters, which adds, “Zhang said the commission and other population research institutes have submitted policy recommendations to the government.”