Center Releases Updated Report on Manila City’s Ban on Modern Contraception
For ten years, a devastating ban on modern contraceptives in Manila City, the Philippines, has denied women their basic right to protect their health and decide whether and when to have children. The Center and its partners have resolutely fought this cruel policy. A newly updated edition of the Center’s seminal report on the issue, Imposing Misery, outlines developments in the situation since the report was first released in 2007.
In 2000, the mayor of Manila City issued an Executive Order (EO) that effectively banned modern contraceptives in the city’s public health facilities. Imposing Misery documented how the ban has endangered the lives and health of women and driven already struggling families even deeper into poverty.
Advocates Fight to Secure Access to Contraception in the Philippines
Since 2007, advocates have launched multiple initiatives to revoke the EO and secure access to modern contraceptives for Filipino women and families.
At the national level, a draft Reproductive Health (RH) Bill introduced in 2008 attempted to promote a rights-based approach to reproductive health and require local governments to guarantee access to contraceptives.
The RH Bill gained unprecedented political and popular support, but also faced significant challenges from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and failed to receive a vote before Congress adjourned in February 2010. Advocates have introduced new bills for Congress to consider during the current legislative session.
The Center and its partners in the Philippines also approached the Philippines Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent investigation into the violations of women’s rights caused by the EO. In September 2010, the Commission agreed to release a statement against the EO.
Advocates have repeatedly approached international human rights bodies as well. To date, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have all expressed concern about the state of reproductive rights in the Philippines. UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Health and on Violence against Women have also written to the Philippine government expressing concern about the lack of access to contraception in Manila.
Courts Unwilling to Uphold the Rights of Women and Families in Manila
In 2008, a group of 20 Filipino men and women filed a lawsuit against the Office of the Mayor of Manila challenging the constitutionality of the EO and calling for its revocation. The findings of Imposing Misery were used as a basis for the case. The courts, however, have consistently refused to decide on the merits of the case. The case is currently pending before the Regional Trial Court of Manila.
The Philippines Must Ensure Access to Contraceptives under National and International Laws
With the release of the updated report, the Center calls on the government of the Philippines to fulfill its obligations under national and international law and immediately ensure all Filipino women are able to obtain modern contraceptives.
The President of the Philippines has clearly expressed his support for women’s access to modern methods of family planning. It is time for the local government of Manila City to follow suit.