An Ounce of Prevention
One of my responsibilities as Director of Roots of Health is to raise the funds we need in order to carry out our programs and services. As you can probably imagine, contraception is a hard sell for many people. Perhaps because the topic of sex is so taboo, people don’t like to think about paying for anything related to it. I’ve heard Filipinos and Americans alike say that they don’t want their taxes to go towards someone else’s condoms. But consider this. In 2015 Philhealth* paid out P394 million ($7.39 million) on post-abortion care and P13.5 million ($253,000) on family planning. In other words, for every P100 spent on post-abortion care, only P3 was spent on contraception which could have prevented those abortions from happening in the first place. The same data shows that the government spent another P2 billion ($36.9 million) in fees for Cesarean-section births of women and girls with unintended pregnancies. Imagine if instead of paying for post-abortion care and surgical deliveries for women and girls who should not have had and did not want more pregnancies, the government had instead ensured that all women and girls had free access to contraception and could therefore make their own decisions. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I can’t think of a better example than with the provision of contraception. At the moment, the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines are finalizing the Department of Health (DOH) budget for 2019. Nothing is set in stone yet, but based on the previous hearings, it seems that the DOH budget is going to be cut from about P107 billion in 2018 to P74 billion in 2019. The only contraceptives earmarked for funding are progestin only pills (P21 million) and implants (P120 million). There is no funding allocated for the injectable DMPA (one of the most popular forms of contraception) or for the more popular form of pills, which have a combination of progestin and estrogen. There is also no budget for condoms. This despite the Philippines having one of the fastest growing rates of new cases of HIV in the world. We’ve also heard that the National AIDS Council budget will be severely reduced with nearly all the money allocated for Antiretroviral Therapy (ARTs) – treatment for people who already have HIV. There is no funding proposed for communication campaigns or condoms to stop the further spread of infection. You may be shaking your head and asking why the government is letting this happen. President Duterte has been vocal about supporting reproductive health (RH), but has done little to ensure the full
The same data shows that the government spent another P2 billion ($36.9 million) in fees for Cesarean-section births of women and girls with unintended pregnancies.
implementation of the RHLaw. The current Secretary of Health Duque didn’t support RH when he was Secretary of Health under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). The new leadership of the Supreme Court is anti-RH. Senate President Tito Sotto has been one of the most powerful and vocal anti-RH voices for years. And the new Speaker of the House, former President GMA, is so anti-RH that policies under her decade of rule led to the maternal mortality rate and teen pregnancy rate skyrocketing. So, with leaders like these, I guess it is no surprise that budget allocations for reproductive health will suffer. If you care about women and girls and reproductive health and rights, or if you care simply about making decisions based on economic sense, I hope you will join me in calling for our leaders to reconsider these budget allocations and include more money for contraceptives. Call, text, tweet, tag, email. Let them know that this is not ok. Investing in reproductive health makes economic sense and has the added benefit of boosting the health of our nation. *The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) the government-owned and controlled corporation attached to the Department of Health tasked with implementing universal health coverage in the Philippines.
PL D D L D ZD SR 20 N 6 5 7 6