Likhaan Center for Women’s Health Takes Action for Filipinos’ Right to Family Planning
In 2015, in response to pressure from anti-choice groups, the Philippines’ Supreme Court issued Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs), restricting the Department of Health (DOH) and the FDA from procuring, selling, distributing, registering, and recertifying hormonal contraceptives and IUDs. The TROs caused a partial shortage of certain types of contraceptives and limited the access of women — rich and poor — to contraceptive supplies and services of their choice.
At the FP2020 Asia Regional Focal Point Workshop and the Philippines Civil Society Organization Forum in May 2017 in Manila, representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), donor organizations and a broad network of civil society organizations charted a collective path towards mitigating the impacts of the TROs. That same month, the Supreme Court ruled that the ability to determine whether contraceptives were abortifacients rested with the FDA and mandated that the FDA review and decide whether to recertify 51 methods.
The Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, led by FP2020 CSO Focal Point Dr. Junice Melgar, saw an opportunity for collective action. Likhaan, which works closely with health authorities and convenes the nation’s largest RH CSO network, the Reproductive Health Action Network, used an FP2020 Rapid Response Mechanism grant to establish and disseminate evidence demonstrating that contraceptives were not abortifacients. Likhaan’ s efforts directly supported the body of evidence on which the FDA based its November 10 resolution to re-certify all 51 types of contraceptives as non-abortifacients.
Since that announcement, Likhaan and other FP2020 partners have focused on ensuring that the FDA’s decision is respected, understood, and quickly acted upon. On December 9, 2017, advocates held a large public information gathering and march and will hold a National Strategic Planning meeting for advocates, the DOH, and local health authorities to evaluate the effects and implications of the FDA decision this month. Likhaan’s leadership and partnership with the DOH underscores the importance of CSO engagement, advocacy, and a supportive network of partners to catalyze progress toward universal access to rights-based family planning.