Couldn't find your birth control pill brand? You are probably experiencing the initial stages of a looming contraceptive stockout where all hormonal contraceptives will no longer be available in the Philippines.
That sounds surreal and TBH, kind of hard to wrap your head around, but there is no other way to explain it. Contraceptives are slowly vanishing from drug store shelves and public health clinics. And by 2020, the only birth control options that will be available in the country are condoms, abstinence (also known as natural family planning), and surgical procedures like vasectomy and tubal ligation.
That’s because a Supreme Court ruling suspended the renewal and application of contraceptive product registrations (which is like their license to sell) in 2015. That year, the High Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) first on implants in response to the petition of a pro-life who claimed that implants cause abortions.
The following year, when the Department of Health (DOH) petitioned the Court to lift the TRO, the Supreme Court expanded its coverage—affecting all contraceptive products that are registered under the Food and Drug Authority.
The Commission on Population (POPCOM) estimates that of the total 48 contraceptive brands (that includes pills, IUDS, injectables, and vaginal rings), about 20 brands have a lapsed product registration.
That’s how we found ourselves in this sticky situation of disappearing birth control.
We are in red alert stage, ladies. If we don’t fight to keep birth control pills in the country, this is what will happen:
1. Increase in unplanned pregnancy and a population boom
Using our current birth and fertility rates, POPCOM estimates that since the TRO has been in place, there have been an additional 500,000 pregnancies. Additional. That’s half a million people.
Instead of the projected population of 110 million by 2022, the population could reach 113 million. POPCOM clarified that they are not against a population boom per se, but emphasized its impact. “The government will need to prepare social services for that many people,” said Juan Perez, executive director of POPCOM.
2. Increase in teen pregnancy
The Philippines has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Asia. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in 10 girls between 15 to 19 years old is already a mother.
Teens already have a problem accessing birth control under the current Reproductive Health law, which prohibits them from getting RH services at government clinics without parental consent.
Imagine the impact of not having access to birth control for a woman who has started having children at the age of say, 16. She has more than 20 fertile years ahead of her. The thought of how many times she can just keep falling pregnant in her lifetime is just staggering.
3. Increase in maternal death
With increased pregnancies, POPCOM also did some projections on the corresponding number of women who may have died due to pregnancy complications.
Based on the Philippines’ current maternal mortality rate of 114 deaths per 100,000 live births, POPCOM estimates that there have been an additional 1,000 maternal deaths as a result of these unintended pregnancies.
4. Possibility of hoarding
In any kind of product shortage, the law of supply and demand will kick in—and an opportunity to make a quick buck.
The dwindling supply of birth control pills will push people to hoard stock for themselves or re-sell…at a much higher price.
5. Opening of a black market for contraceptives
Eliminating contraceptives would not eliminate the need for them. Life just isn’t that simple. The continued demand for contraceptives will give birth (pardon the pun) to a black market where you can buy birth control at a jacked up price, fake birth control, or birth control of dubious or adulterated formulation.
You won’t eliminate the need for birth control or an illegal supply of it—you will just eliminate the regulatory system that certifies birth control as a safe product for those who want to use it.
6. Rise of birth control smugglers
Buying your birth control from overseas may seem like a viable option, BUT if the product registration of a certain brand lapses, it cannot be sold or brought into the country. Technically, you will be smuggling in contraband.
7. Increase in incidence of unsafe abortions
Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, without exceptions—even if means saving the life of the mother. But it happens. RH think tank Guttmacher Institute estimates that there are about 560,000 induced abortions every year in the Philippines. That number was way before the TRO was implemented. Imagine what that number must be now.
Make your voice heard. Fight to keep birth control affordable and accessible for Filipinos.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE.
Ana P. Santos writes about sex and gender seriously. She is a Pulitzer Center grantee and the Pulitzer Center’s 2014 Persephone Miel fellow.