Why contraceptives are crucial in the fight for gender equality

Art by Ina Jacobe

As early as 2018, it is possible that the only birth control options available to Filipinos will be the Holy Trinity of abstinence, condoms, and sterilization (i.e., vasectomy or tubal ligation). That’s right, when it comes to reproductive health, we’re going vintage.

Licenses to sell contraceptives are expiring and are not being renewed. In 2015, the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) KO’d its female population by issuing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to allow companies to sell certain contraceptive implants. (Please tell me you know what a contraceptive implant is). The next year, after the Department of Health petitioned the SC to lift the TRO, the SC retaliated with a slap in the face. Hey, Department of Health, guess what, all contraceptive products are now under the TRO! Devil emoji, literally.

In fairness to President Duterte, in January 2017, he made his first Executive Order in the year for full implementation of the Reproductive Health law. It called for a deadass approach to make sure that there are “zero unmet [needs] for modern family planning,” prioritizing poor households by 2018, and all Filipinos after.

SC’s response? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How did we get into this mess in the first place? And why?

An organization called ALLiance for the FAMILY Foundation, Inc. (ALFI) filed a complaint to the Supreme Court against some contraceptive implants that, allegedly, have abortifacient side-effects. ALFI is one of many Pro-Life organizations in the country. It says in its website that they are “committed to preserve and restore Filipino family values.” To them, “Total Fertility Control” is immoral.

Hmm. Tell that to the women who choose to take implants because a) it’s convenient for them, b) they can’t afford to raise more children, c) they want to stay alive because their bodies are fragile and can’t handle the effects of pregnancy, and/or d) some husbands are a-holes and they don’t want to wear condoms, or don’t want their wives to take birth control pills because it makes them feel undesired.

And now she’s immoral? For not wanting to be pregnant? For wanting to enjoy sex just for pleasure, minus the fear? Not everyone has the resources to have a fun Facebook-friendly pregnancy. Hell, not everyone has a regular-enough cycle to family plan. And they’re right to want to prepare emotionally for giving birth. Pregnancy is the pits! It’s beautiful, but it’s hard work, especially if you did not intend it in the first place.

Whose interests are these people protecting? For whom? For what? For God? I don’t think he (she? it?) is going to smite a poor mother for not wanting to be pregnant anymore. Does eliminating a woman’s choice over her body, or exposing her to unhealthy circumstances fall under “loving your neighbor?”

Don’t they realize that the root of the oppression of women is in their capacity, or lack thereof, to give birth? The early order of things was: man hunted, woman reared the kids that popped out of her vagina. Because it couldn’t be helped. They didn’t have birth control. They didn’t even understand what was happening.

But we do. And you can’t claim freedom, progress, democracy, and even love of neighbor, without allowing every woman the choice over her own body. You don’t have to take the pills. It’s your right if you think other women shouldn’t take them. But it’s damn malicious and dangerous  for you to be raising a raucous in legislation. The Department of Health doesn’t distribute condoms or pills or implants just so the unmarried youths can have unli-sex. It’s to protect women from unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths.

Contraceptives mean that women are granted the same autonomy over her body, her time, her future, as the man does over his. Without it, there’s no equality to speak of.

#health #politics

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