A contraceptive ban imposed in Manila eight years ago has badly affected the city’s poor. Some 70 per cent of Filipinos rely on public health facilities and many use family planning clinics to obtain free contraceptives. The ban was pushed through with no public consultation or announcement. The first many women knew of it was when they were turned away from the clinics, reveals Aya Fujimura-Fanselow, legal advisor at the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York.
Since then, average family size has increased, placing additional strains on parents already struggling to provide for their children. The HIV infection rate has risen, along with the maternal mortality rate, and more women are suffering complications and death as a result of illegal, unsafe abortions.
The ban is in direct contravention of the Filipino Constitution but the Philippines’ decentralized system of government allows regions to bring in their own policies, opening the way for Manila’s pro-life Mayor, Lito Atienza, to push through the ban in 2000. Campaigners are now concerned that other local governments may do the same. Says Fujimura-Fanselow, who details the effects of the ban in her report _Imposing Misery_: ‘The ban has had a detrimental effect on all aspects of women’s lives. The consequences have been irreversible, and have affected generations of women and their children.’