The Real Cost of the Philippines Contraceptive Budget Cut
The Philippines started the New Year cutting their budget for contraceptives. The cut will leave an estimated 6.9 million of the 24.9 million women of reproductive age without access to free contraceptives. Of the women without access, approximately one million women in the poorest communities will have an unintended pregnancy.
Due to these unintended pregnancies, maternal mortality will also increase by about 300,000 deaths for women living in the lowest wealth quintiles in the Philippines. The Philippines made an MDG promise of reducing their maternal mortality rate to 52 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. With a current rate of 162 deaths per 100,000 live births, the budget cut to contraceptives will only push the Philippines further away from meeting its goal.
This cut also diminishes the inherent right that women have to make decisions about when and how many children they have. The Philippines has an estimated population of about 99.14 million people, with about a quarter of that population at the national poverty line. Many women living at the poverty line are unable to afford contraceptives without government support, leaving them without reproductive health options. This issue is more than a numbers game. It is an issue of reproductive rights for all women.
Not only does the cut significantly impact women’s health and rights, the long-term financial costs are considerable. The cut in the contraceptive budget will cost the government about 323.4 million dollars in prenatal care, complicated pregnancies, and facility births due to the number of unintended pregnancies. This estimate does not take into account postnatal care or healthcare for the child. Additionally, these estimates do not take into account the cost that an increased population will have on a government, including education fees, agricultural and environmental concerns, and increased dependent care. Ultimately, the number of unintended pregnancies from one year could end up costing the government billions of dollars.
In 2012, the Philippines voted to guarantee free and universal access to contraceptives at government facilities as part of the reproductive health law. The contraceptive guarantee requires two million US dollars to ensure universal access to contraceptives. However, this year that full amount was cut.
The RH law has already faced opposition from conservative Catholic groups in the largely religious country, including a constitutional challenge that lasted a year. When the law was finally implemented in 2014 it was considered a large step forward in ensuring that women in the Philippines are able to choose the timing and size of their family.
Advocates in the Philippines have stated their opposition to the budget cuts, including the Purple Ribbon for RH movement, and the Philippine commission for women, calling the cut unjust, and a strike against maternal mortality in the Philippines. PAI stands with these advocacy groups in condemning the Philippine government for cutting contraceptives, undercutting women’s reproductive rights, and endangering more lives.