Sex Education

By Miriam Defensor Santiago, Special for CNN
December 31, 2012
Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate, as lawmakers pass the landmark birth control legislation on December 17.
Supporters of the RH Bill celebrate, as lawmakers pass the landmark birth control legislation on December 17.

Editor’s note: Miriam Defensor Santiago is in her third term as a member of the Philippines Senate and a co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Bill. She is also the founder of People’s Reform Party. Last year she was selected to be a judge in the International Criminal Court, though she has still to take office.

Manila, Philippines (CNN) — We were like David against Goliath. We fought long and hard, and in the end we prevailed.

After 14 long years in the dustbins of Congress, mainly due to strong opposition from the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday, 17 December 2012.

Indeed, there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And the time for a Philippine reproductive health law is now.

Read: Philippines leader signs divisive bill

The Philippines remains one of the poorest countries in the world because, among other things, for a long time, it refused to acknowledge what could easily be seen when one glances out the window: the country desperately needs a reproductive health law.

Not having a reproductive health law is cruelty to the poor. The poor are miserable because, among other reasons, they have so many children. Providing reproductive knowledge and information through government intervention is the humane thing to do. It can help the poor escape the vicious cycle of poverty by giving them options on how to manage their sexual lives, plan their families and control their procreative activities. The phrase “reproductive rights” includes the idea of being able to make reproductive decisions free from discrimination, coercion or violence.

Read: A14-year fight for birth control

Many poor women do not receive information on how to receive reproductive health care. Our underprivileged women have to accept standards lower than what they need, want, or deserve. According to the Department of Health, the mortality rate for Filipino mothers increased to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009. But not only do the women suffer, the children do, too. The children remain undernourished and undereducated because their parents are ignorant about reproductive health care and choices.

In short, the bill merely wants to empower a Filipino woman from the poorest economic class to march to the nearest facility operated by the Department of Health or the local government unit, to demand information on a family planning product or supply of her choice. The bill, at the simplest level, wants to give an indigent married woman the freedom of informed choice concerning her reproductive rights.

If the bill is highly controversial, it is not because it is dangerous to humans or to the planet. It is not subversive of the political order. It is not a fascist diktat of a totalitarian power structure. The reason this bill is emotionally charged is because of the fervent opposition of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and those who wish to be perceived as its champions.

Yet the majority of Catholic countries around the world have passed reproductive health laws, even Italy where the Vatican City is located. Other nations include Spain, Portugal, Paraguay, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina.

Apart from the Catholic Church, all other major religions in the Philippines support the RH Bill. Other major Christian churches have not only officially endorsed the bill but have published learned treatises explaining their position. Support also comes from the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.

The position of these Christian bodies is supported by the most authoritative body of Islamic clerics in the Philippines, the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. These constitute the top-ranking ulama, deemed to have the authority to issue opinions on matters facing Islam and Muslims. In 2003, they issued a fatwah or religious ruling called “Call to Greatness.” It gives Muslim couples a free choice on whether to practice family planning.

The Filipino people, regardless of religion, are in favor of RH. In June 2011, the Social Weather Stations, a survey group, reported that 73% of Filipinos want information from the government on all legal methods of family planning, while 82% say family planning method is a personal choice of couples and no one should interfere with it. An October 2012 survey among young people aged 15 to 19 years old in Manila shows that 83% agree that there should be a law in the Philippines on reproductive health and family planning.

This is the will of the Filipino people; it is the democratic expression of what the public wants from government. The anti-RH groups are mute on this ineluctable fact.

Reproductive health care is a human right. The people are entitled to demand it from their government and the government is obligated to provide it to its constituents.

The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics

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“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics,” a new documentary-style filmproduced by Catholics for Choice, sets the record straight about Catholic social teaching on issues related to sex and sexuality. Catholic bishops the world over have politicized the pulpit, seeking to drown out the voices of Catholics who disagree with them. This film offers a straightforward explanation of what Catholic social teaching really is on the controversial issues that drive the news cycle-and it’s not simply the dictates of the bishops.

“Contrary to popular opinion, there is more to Catholics’ beliefs than what the hierarchy espouses,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “We put together this film with some of the top theologians in the world to get at the heart of Catholic teaching: that people become Catholics through their baptism and are given both a free will and a conscience to make important decisions. We hope that anyone seeking to discuss ‘what Catholics think,’ how they vote or, most importantly, what Catholics believe, will consider this film.”

Please watch the movie, share it with your family and friends, and let us know what you think via e-mail or on our Facebook page.

Watch the Film

Source: RH Reality Check



About 1.2 million abortions are performed in the United States every year, and of women seeking abortions, about half have had an abortion before.

Women who have had more than one abortion are often targets of public-health interventions designed to increase women’s use of post-abortion contraception, or, to put it another way, to prevent them from having another abortion. Instead of seeing these women as “repeaters,” it’s time we viewed each abortion as a unique experience with its own set of complex circumstances.

Tracy Weitz and Katrina Kimport, sociologists with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), analyzed the interviews of ten women who’d had multiple abortions (full disclosure: I interned at ANSIRH this summer). Their research was part of several larger studies. The women interviewed varied in age, race, and geographic location, although most were from the Northeast or the West Coast. Together, they’d had a total of 35 abortions. Weitz and Kimport examined how these women thought about each abortion experience. Were they similar or different from each other? How did the circumstances of each abortion affect women’s emotional outcomes?

The researchers found that women talked about their abortions as separate events. Each abortion came with its own set of unique emotional and social circumstances, some more difficult or easy than others. In other words, a woman who’s had three abortions wasn’t repeating the same experience each time. Health interventions and policies that target women who have had more than one abortion should take into account that each abortion —and the circumstances of that pregnancy—may reflect a different emotional experience.

Weitz and Kimport argue, “It is important to recognize that some abortions can be emotionally easier or harder; it is problematic to instead think about abortion as being harder or easier for some women.” That is, just because a woman has had multiple abortions does not mean that each one was a product of the same circumstance. In fact, women reported that they wanted different types of support based on the circumstances of each abortion.
Similarly, providers should not assume that a woman with a history of multiple abortions will have the same emotional or contraceptive needs after each abortion. In fact, Weitz and Kimport found that some women avoided going to the same provider for each abortion because they feared being judged for having multiple abortions or having to hear the same contraceptive-counseling script. Providers should not make assumptions about their patients’ needs based on the number of abortions they’ve had.

Even our so-called pro-choice allies place judgments on women who have had multiple abortions. Mainstream pro-choice organizations often shy away from acknowledging that some women have more than one abortion. Instead of worrying that discussing multiple abortions will rile up the anti-choice movement, we should focus on de-stigmatizing the experience of abortion, no matter how many times a woman needs to access this service.
Women who have had multiple abortions should not be viewed as a separate class of people from women who have had one abortion. Indeed, it may be that the women who have only one abortion over an average of 35 years of trying not to become pregnant, are the rarer ones. Instead of targeting just the women who have had multiple abortions for public-health interventions, the researchers suggest that we offer emotional support based on the context of each abortion.
We should understand women who have had multiple abortions through their individual life experiences rather than judging them on their pregnancy history. If we want to better meet women’s emotional needs around abortion, we can start by using the phrase “multiple abortions” instead of “repeat abortions,” and moving away from policies that seek to prevent “repeat abortions.” To support women who have had multiple abortions, we need to acknowledge that some abortions may be more difficult than others.

Environ 40 millions d’avortements auront lieu dans les pays en voie de développement cette année. La plupart de ces procédures seront non médicalisées et pratiquées dans la clandestinité, avec de graves conséquences sur la vie d’innombrables femmes. Chaque année, 47 000 femmes meurent à cause de complications liées à l’avortement non médicalisé et millions d’autres sont blessées, dont certaines grièvement et de façon permanente. Ces décès et blessures sont presque entièrement évitables.

Afin d’assurer que le débat mondial sur l’avortement non médicalisé et ses conséquences soit informé par des faits, le Guttmacher Institute a créé une courte vidéo présentant les données probantes essentielles sur l’avortement dans le monde.

La vidéo vise à informer les discussions des décideurs, du public et des médias au sujet de la prestation de services d’avortement médicalisé – des services essentiels aux soins de santé reproductive qui sont bénéfiques pour les femmes, leurs enfants et la société. La vidéo fait ressortir plusieurs points clés:

  • Partout dans le monde, des femmes se font avorter, et ce pour des raisons similaires qui incluent le manque de moyens d’élever un enfant ou un enfant de plus, l’instabilité de leur relation et le besoin de poursuivre leurs études.
  • La fréquence de l’avortement a beaucoup moins à voir avec son statut juridique qu’avec le taux de grossesses non planifiées, la cause fondamentale de la plupart des avortements. Les taux de grossesses non planifiées sont directement liés à l’accès aux services de planification familiale de qualité.
  • La meilleure façon de réduire le recours à l’avortement n’est pas en niant aux femmes l’accès à des procédures médicalisées et légales, mais en leur donnant le pouvoir de contrôler leur fécondité et de prévenir les grossesses non désirées. Aujourd’hui, 222 millions de femmes dans les pays en voie de développement veulent éviter une grossesse, mais n’utilisent pas de méthode contraceptive moderne.

Réduire l’incidence de l’avortement non médicalisé est un impératif de santé publique. C’est un droit fondamental de chaque femme de pouvoir décider si et quand elle veut avoir un enfant, sans devoir mettre sa santé ou sa vie en danger.

Vous pouvez regarder la vidéo sur notre chaîne YouTube. S’il-vous-plaît partagez la vidéo, ainsi que vos réactions sur notre page Facebook.

Ici vous trouverez plus l’information :


An estimated 40 million abortions will take place in the developing world this year. Most of these procedures will be clandestine and unsafe, taking a terrible toll on women’s lives. Every year, 47,000 women die from unsafe abortion and millions more are injured, some seriously and permanently. These deaths and injuries are almost entirely preventable.

To help ensure that the global debate about unsafe abortion and its consequences is informed by facts, the Guttmacher Institute has created a short video presenting key evidence on abortion worldwide. video aims to inform discussions by policymakers, the public and the media about the provision of safe abortion services—making clear that such services are essential to reproductive health care which in turn benefits women, their children and society. The video makes several key points:

  • Women have abortions in all parts of the world and they have them for similar reasons, which include being unable or too poor to care for a child or additional children, not being in a stable relationship, and needing to finish their education.
  • The frequency of abortion has much less to do with its legal status than with levels of unintended pregnancy, the root cause of most abortions. Unintended pregnancy rates have everything to do with whether a woman has access to quality family planning services.
  • The best way to reduce the need for abortion is not by denying women access to safe and legal procedures, but by giving them the power to control their fertility and prevent unintended pregnancy. Today, 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive.

Reducing the incidence of unsafe abortion is a public health imperative. It is the basic right of every woman to be able to make her own childbearing decisions without having to put her health or her life at risk.

You can watch the video on our YouTube channel. Please consider sharing it with others and tell us your thoughts on our Facebook page.

See here for more information:

Se estima que 40 millones de abortos tendrán lugar en el mundo en desarrollo este año. La mayor parte de estos procedimientos serán clandestinos e inseguros, cobrando un terrible precio en vidas de mujeres. Cada año, 47,000 mujeres mueren a causa de abortos inseguros y millones más resultan heridas, algunas de manera grave y permanente. Estas muertes e heridas son prevenibles casi en su totalidad.

Para ayudar a que el debate global sobre aborto inseguro y sus consecuencias esté fundamentado en hechos, el Guttmacher Institute ha creado un video corto que presenta evidencia clave sobre el aborto en el mundo.

El video tiene el propósito de sustentar con información las deliberaciones de formuladores de políticas, el público y los medios acerca de la provisión de servicios de aborto seguro—dejando en claro que tales servicios son esenciales para la atención en materia de salud reproductiva; la cual, a su vez, beneficia a las mujeres, a sus hijos y a la sociedad. El video destaca varios puntos esenciales:

Las mujeres en todas partes del mundo tienen abortos y los tienen por razones similares, tales como el carecer de la capacidad o ser demasiado pobres para poder cuidar a un hijo o a hijos adicionales, no estar en una relación estable y tener la necesidad de terminar los estudios.

El nivel del aborto tiene mucho menos que ver con su estatus legal que con los niveles de embarazo no planeado, que son la causa de la mayoría de los abortos. Las tasas de embarazo no planeado están íntimamente relacionadas con el hecho de si las mujeres tienen o no acceso a servicios de planificación familiar de calidad.

La mejor forma de reducir la necesidad del aborto no es negar el acceso a procedimientos legales y seguros para las mujeres, sino darles a las mujeres el poder de controlar su fecundidad y de prevenir los embarazos no planeados. En la actualidad, 222 millones de mujeres en el mundo en desarrollo desean evitar el embarazo pero no están usando un método moderno de anticoncepción.

Reducir la incidencia del aborto inseguro es una necesidad urgente de salud pública. Es el derecho básico de cada mujer el ser capaz de tomar sus propias decisiones relativas a la maternidad, sin tener que poner en riesgo su salud o su vida.

Usted puede ver el video en nuestro canal YouTube. Por favor, considere la posibilidad de compartir el video con otras personas y comparta con nosotros lo que usted piensa en nuestra página de Facebook.

Consulte aquí para mayor información sobre:

Transcripción del video

Hechos sobre el aborto inducido en el mundo

Hechos sobre el aborto en América Latina y el Caribe

Los costos y beneficios de las inversiones en servicios anticonceptivos en el mundo en desarrollo

Interactive media kit: Worldwide abortion: legality, incidence and safety

Induced abortion: incidence and trends worldwide from 1995 to 2008

Canal de YouTube de Guttmacher con videos adicionales sobre aborto y anticoncepción

Women on Waves



Sexual Health Services Worldwide


Women on Waves maintains a list of sexual health services worldwide at:


For almost every country we have listed some family planning, women’s health, and abortion rights organizations.


We would like to keep it up-to-date and accurate.


If you have information about additional services in any countries or corrections to the current listings, please send this information

Thank you!

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