The Philippines Just Announced Big News For Reproductive Rights

Photographed by Megan Madden.
In a huge move for reproductive rights, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the island nation would be providing reproductive health services and free birth control to millions of women.

It has been a long battle toward this move, starting with the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which aimed to offer contraception, birth control, sexual education, and more to the populous. Though the act passed, continued delays kept it from actually being implemented. In 2014, the Court ruled the act unconstitutional and struck down many of its provisions. With yesterday's executive order, President Duterte stated that he "recognizes the right of Filipinos to decide freely and responsibly on their desired number and spacing of children" and passed the sweeping legislation.

According to a 2013 study by the Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey, 6 million Filipinas, including 2 million living in poverty, don't have access to contraception. Duterte is ordering various government offices, including the education and health departments, to enact the new initiative. It includes sex education in schools, health insurance benefits for women, as well as education campaigns for the general public. The plan should be fully implemented by 2018 and will offer all women, regardless of economic standing, everything they need for family planning at no cost.

"There is a plan in the next six months for local governments to go out in the field, to do house-to-house visits, identify those in need of family planning, (and work) with all these agencies," National Economic and Development Authority Director General Ernesto Pernia told CNN.

It's a surprising move for one of the most Catholic nations in the world, but with one of the most progressive popes in recent history heading the Church, steps like Duterte's RPRH Act could signal progress in some of the most conservative places in the world.
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