As funds for family planning decrease, high birth rates create poverty in the Philippines. When I was in DC to accept a Population Institute Global Media Award on behalf of the Rewire team last December, I met a MelClaire Sy Delfin, a brave Filipina journalist who had won a GMA for best individual reporting on population issues. During a session with a Scott Radloff, a US AID staffer, MelClaire told him point-blank that the Philippines still desperately needs US family planning assistance. Radloff disagreed. MelClaire persisted. She never convinced him.
At the Population Action International blog, Tod Preston covers the frank reality of the situation: While the US is scaling down is FP support in the Philippines, birth rates in the country are keeping its citizens in poverty. Only one-third of married women in the Philippines use modern contraceptives.
In the Philippines, the numbers look like this:
In its budget request to Congress last year, the Bush Administration proposed spending only $5.2 million for FP/RH assistance in the Philippines — less than 1/7 of what the U.S. spent in that country in 1995 ($37 million in inflation-adjusted dollars). That’s despite the fact that 25 percent of Filipinas ages 20-24 have an unmet need for family planning — and these rates are even higher among uneducated women. So funding is going down and contraceptive shipments are ending while the need and demand remain high. And remember, the backdrop for all of this is a country in which more than 40 percent of its people live below the poverty line.
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But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we don’t support family planning funding just because it’s an effective anti-poverty strategy. Our support for voluntary family planning begins with the belief that being able to control the number and spacing of one’s children is a basic right:
The great tragedy in all of this — “outrage” might be a more accurate term — is that the cuts in FP funding are depriving women and men, many of them impoverished, of something they fundamentally want: that most basic ability to choose how many children to have and when to have them.