Senate President Vicente Sotto III’s suggestion to cut funding on contraceptive implants raised concerns in local health offices in Puerto Princesa and the province.
During the Senate plenary hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for 2020 last Tuesday, Sotto can be noted saying, “May iba namang alternatives na non-abortifacients na puwede. Bakit kailangan pilitin? Kapag sinabing puwede, tsaka tayo bumili.”
Amina Evangelista-Swanepoel, founding executive director of Roots of Health (ROH), said that the Senator’s statement has no basis and that there is “no reason to remove this option for women of the Philippines.”
“The FDA and the Supreme Court have both already affirmed that implants are not abortifacients,” Swanepoel said.
“While Senator Sotto’s statements are disappointing, they are not surprising. Senator Sotto has shown that he is no friend of Filipinas,” she said, adding that the senator has fought against contraceptives before by railing against the RH Law and voting against it.
Swanepoel also said that by doing this, the senator is restricting women on their choices.
“Implants are not ‘forced’ on anyone. Women choose to have them and they can choose to have them removed at any time. By banning them, the Senator shows that he wishes to restrict women’s choices,” she said.
According to Swanepoel, Sotto’s suggestion to defund contraceptive implants is “ill-advised and will harm women and families.”
“Palaweñas have demonstrated that they want implants in order to plan and space their pregnancies. Tens of thousands of women have opted to use this method and removing this as an option for them denies them their rights and is in clear violation of the RPRH Law,” she said.
Roots of Health was established when two women, Amina and her mother felt like they could share reproductive health lessons with women and young people in marginalized communities, thereby improving health and the general quality of life in this very poor province of the Philippines.
Shortly after starting the program, women asked them for clinical services and Amina and Susan, her mother, realized that health knowledge needed to be matched with easily available and free clinical services. Thus began the Roots of Health approach of coupling education with services.
Meanwhile, provincial health officer Dra. Mary Ann Navarro also said that sub-dermal implants are not abortifacients and that it can be removed anytime they want, “The clients who are implanted with it will not get pregnant for three years. Hindi iyon nakaka-abort.”
She also cited how it can even be beneficial for the mothers who just gave birth as they can bond and take care of their newborn before getting pregnant again, “Kapag gusto na nilang mabuntis, puwedeng tanggalin.”
Implanon and Implanon NXT implants are family planning methods that were the subjects of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in 2015. The TRO was lifted in 2017 after the FDA ruled that Implanon is non-abortifacient.
The proposed budget for family planning supplies is P2.2 billion for 2020. The DOH budget of P96.3 billion was passed on November 19.