Poverty and reproductive health are headline issues in the Philippines over the past few years, as the prices of the contraceptives are immensely expensive, making them only affordable for the rich.
As a result of the high price, the poor are having, on average, about one more child than they would like and more than one-fifth of married women do not want to have a child soon or at all but is unable to use contraceptives.
According to national surveys, women aged 15–49 want 2.4 children but have an average of 3.3.
Only 41% of the poorest women use contraceptives, compared with 50% of the wealthiest.
Lately, premarital sexual activity has increased in Philippines, creating a greater need for contraceptives among young women and men. Among all young adults aged 15–24, premarital sexual activity increased from 18% to 23% (from 26% to 31% among young men and from 10% to 16% among young women).
The Philippines is the only Asia-Pacific country where the rate of teen pregnancies rose over the last two decades, the UN Population Fund said last year.
The main reason behind the costly contraceptives, is the religion which the majority follows. The Catholic church disapproves the use of artificial contraceptives, such as pills, injectables, IUDs and condoms. Therefore, the government of Philippines keeps the prices high, which makes it unafordable by the majority.
However, some do not use contraceptives not due to it’s cost, but as they are afraid of side effects, while some others believe they are unlikely to become pregnant. Their specific reasons include having sex intercourse infrequently, experiencing lactational amenorrhea (temporary infertility while nursing) and being less fecund than normal.
After innumerable concerns, the government agencies in Philippines has ordered to offer free contraceptives to an estimated six million women who cannot obtain them, in a move expected to be opposed by the dominant Roman Catholic church.
President Rodrigo Duterte claims, he wants to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, especially among the poor.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia noted that adequate and fair distribution of contraceptives are necessary to reduce poverty.
The executive order Duterte signed on January 9 said, out of the six million women with unmet needs for modern family planning, two million have been identified as poor. The two million women should have access to them by 2018, and all the rest thereafter, the order added.
It also directs government agencies to locate couples with unmet family planning needs, mobilize agencies up to the village level and partner with civil society in intensifying the drive.
The Philippines population, now at 104 million, is growing at a rate of around 1.7% yearly, but the growth may be reduced to 1.4% if the campaign is fully implemented by 2022, said the Executive Director of the Commission on Population.