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Philippines To Spend Nearly $12M On Contraceptives To Bolster Family Planning, Reduce Maternal Mortality Rate

The government of the Philippines plans to spend nearly $12 million on contraceptives this year in an effort to “save its ‘failed’ family planning program and drastically cut maternal deaths,” according to the Department of Health, IRIN reports. However, “[i]t is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the [Catholic] Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters,” the news service writes. In addition to purchasing and distributing condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills, and other contraceptives “on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centers across the country,” health officials say the plan “is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 — a rise [of] 35 percent — according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey,” IRIN notes.

“A reproductive health bill that includes allocating funds for contraceptives and introducing sex education for primary school children has been bitterly debated in Congress for the past two years, but there is little sign of it being passed anytime soon,” IRIN reports, adding that though “President Benigno Aquino … initially voiced support for the reproductive health bill, … intense lobbying by Church officials, whose views on key issues often shape public opinion, has softened that position.” Family planning funding from foreign governments and non-governmental organizations has decreased due to the worldwide economic crisis, according to the news service, which notes that the health department estimates about six million Filipino women have an “unmet need” for family planning services (7/2).