BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court banning the use of modern contraceptive implants by the Department of Health has pushed family planning advocates and the private sector to fulfil the unmet needs of women in Cagayan Valley.
Women here seeking modern means to avoid pregnancy were happy to learn that a program using private clinics to provide their needs has been funded by the United Nations Fund for Population Administration.
“Region 2 has placed in the top three among the regions who were able to fulfil unmet needs because of the perseverance of reproductive health advocates involved in a private-public partnership here,” Population Commission Regional Director Angelito Obcena said.
A Department of Health memorandum order dated July 30, 2015 obtained by Manila Standard clarified that only the pregnancy prevention implants already procured by the DoH were covered by the ban.
“Civil society organizations, development partners and private health care providers can perform implant insertion, provided they are acting on their own behalf and the Implanon and Implanon NXT did not come from DoH,” the frequently asked questions attached to the memo reads.
“We were very frustrated by the lack of information among some municipal health officers and Rural Health Units,” lamented Benjamin Lucas Jr., a local NGO partner of two reproductive health advocates, the Philippine Society for Responsible Parenthood and the Philippine Council for Population Development.
Lucas is the chief executive officer of Building Inter-Tribal Ecodevelopment, a local NGO implementing a project funded by a grant from the UNFPA.
He reported that some local health officials, who were not properly informed on the scope of the TRO, were driving away private sector volunteers doing campaigns to meet women’s reproductive needs in the villages.
“But we also praise the bold move of some local chief executives like Mayor Liwayway Caramat of Santa Fe and Mayor Chito Bumolo of Kasibu towns of Nueva Vizcaya who provided women acceptors with free rides to private clinics who are not covered by the ban,” Lucas explained.
It may be recalled that a group identified as the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. and lawyer Maria Conception S. Noche filed a petition to stop the DoH from promoting the use of modern contraceptive implants before the Supreme Court on June 17, 2015.
Last July, the petitioners were granted a TRO enjoining the DoH to stop “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting the hormonal contraceptive Implanon and Implanon NXT” and the Food and Drug Administration to refrain from “granting any and all pending applications for registration and/or recertification of reproductive products and supplies including contraceptive drugs and devices.”
But early this year, the passage of Executive Order No. 12 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Jan. 9, 2017 has inspired RH and family planning advocates to intensify their campaign.
The new order aimed at “attaining and sustaining ‘zero unmet need for modern family planning’ through strict implementation of the responsible parenthood and reproductive health act.”
Duterte has also directed all agencies with population concerns to help attain this goal.
“Local health officials are not yet fully aware of the new EO. They were surprised when we showed them a copy,” Lucas said.
Lucas raised the ‘low level of understanding’ of the modern feature of the hormonal implant. “It merely prevents the production of ‘eggs’ in the female reproductive system. So theoretically, it is not ‘abortifacent’ as was commonly understood. There is no ‘abortion’ since fertilization has not occurred when no egg was fertilized by the male sperm,” he added.