Reproductive health law helps prevent 2M unintended pregnancies, 1K maternal deaths yearly — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 13)— Ten years since the landmark passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 or RH law, the Department of Health (DOH) said the country is already making progress in ensuring access to family planning methods.

In a joint forum organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire reported that the number of modern contraceptive users grew to 7.9 million in 2022.

The health official added that the number of maternal deaths and unintended pregnancies also decreased since.

“As a result, more than two million unintended pregnancies and 1,000 maternal deaths were averted annually,” Vergeire said.

“Furthermore the adolescent birth rate is now at 25 per 1,000 women, which is a reduction of almost half or 47% of 2017 data. This is already beyond the 37 per 1,000 women target for the 2022,” she added.

But not all news is good since the number of teenage pregnancies remains high. Vergeire said that over 157 births were recorded from the 15-19 year age group.

“Preventing pregnancies among our young girls is pivotal in ensuring their full potential,” Vergeire said.

COVID-19 impact on government family planning services

The health official noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had also affected the rollout of services related to family planning and modern contraception.

“Many of our essential programs and services were affected due to mobility restrictions and our resources being redirected to support our COVID-19 response. As a result, we saw an increase on maternal deaths,” Vergeire said.

Some 570 maternal deaths were recorded in 2020 — a 36% increase from 2019 data, according to Vergeire.

Numbers on HIV testing likewise decreased due to the restrictions brought by the pandemic, she said.

The DOH said the government will allot some $20 million or ₱1 billion for its family planning programs in the coming years as part of its commitment to Family Planning 2030 — a global initiative to give equal access to new family planning methods.

“This will be spent annually by the national government for the family planning program for commodity security, systems strengthening, service provision, social and behavioral change communication activities, and capacity building of city and province-wide healthcare systems,” she said.

UNFPA country representative Dr. Leila Joudane also lauded the Philippines, saying it is among few countries with a comprehensive reproductive health law.

“A decade after its enactment, it is everybody’s task to sustain the gains and maintain the momentum of the RH Law. We need to address gaps in policy and implementation and guarantee that the benefits of the law reach especially the most vulnerable women and girls in the country,” Joudane said.

The RH bill was signed into law by the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on Dec. 21, 2012.