Advocacy Country Spotlight: Philippines
Issue: In 2015, the government of the Philippines issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on contraceptives deemed as abortifacients, or abortion-inducing, branding them as unsafe for women’s health. This freeze on distribution resulted in a shortage of certain types of contraceptive commodities that threatened to reach total shortage if the TRO remained in place until the end of 2019. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the authority to determine whether contraceptives qualify as abortifacients rests with the FDA and mandated that the agency review whether to recertify 51 contraceptive methods.
Action: Through a Rapid Response Mechanism-funded project, the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, Inc provided scientific evidence demonstrating that contraceptives are non-abortifacients to government health authorities (FDA and DoH), advocates, and media. After concluding its research, Likhaan hosted a public information gathering for 1,000 participants and several outreach education sessions attended by local leaders, service providers, and community members. The organization also disseminated 1,000 media briefs to journalists and 500 policy briefs to DoH officials, health professional groups, and reproductive health practitioners.
Impact: Likhaan successfully assisted the FDA, through a research paper and technical assistance, in re-certifying all 51 methods as non-abortifacients, indirectly benefiting 4.26 million women using modern contraceptives. By protecting access to a wide range of contraceptive options, Likhaan helped promote the principles of informed choice and voluntarism fundamental to rights-based family planning. The project also yielded positive behavior change through strengthening multisectoral stakeholders’ commitment to family planning and empowering service providers to become active advocates for the national family planning program.