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Birth Control Implants Empower Filipinas Like Me, Now a Senator Wants to Stop Funding It

How are women supposed to find the right birth control method for their bodies if you limit their options?

by Lia Savillo
22 November 2019, 8:51am

Illustration by Prianka Jain.

One of the times I felt most empowered as a woman was in December 2018. After mulling it over for a year, I finally got a birth control implant. It felt freeing to not have to worry about taking the pill in time, which became less effective when mixed with meds I had to take to treat my newly diagnosed depression.

I spoke with friends living in other parts of the world where implants were readily available, and learned that one quick procedure would get rid of my worries about accidentally getting pregnant. I knew right away that I had to get one too.

I did my research and was devastated (but not shocked) to find out that it’s not commonly used in the Philippines, where I’m from.

In 2015, the government placed a temporary restraining order on implant brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, for allegedly causing abortions. This was only lifted in 2017, when the Food and Drug Administration ruled that they were non-abortifacients. They’re still rarely used as a form of birth control today, with many opting for condoms or — worse — relying on the ineffective withdrawal method.

I got my implant at a women’s center managed by a local non-governmental organization that looked more like an old shabby house than a clinic. There, birth control was free, so there was a long line of women outside. A medical technician told me that the clinic would fill up even before 10 a.m. I sat in the waiting room and watched 90’s sex-ed videos on a small TV screen until it was my turn.

After filling out the necessary documents, I lay down on a bed where the technician injected anesthesia on me, before making a small incision on my left arm to insert the implant — a thin, 2-inch long rod. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.

I loved it. My mood improved and I was not as disinterested in things all the time, something I normally felt before. It made my period lighter, so that was “goodbye” to head-splitting cramps, too. I felt like I had reclaimed my own body. While I eventually got it removed to avoid breakouts, I'm thankful to have had the choice to try it.

But now, that implant is being challenged by our Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who on Tuesday, called on his fellow lawmakers to stop funding implants next year. He said they are abortifacients, citing a testimony that claimed the FDA's research was based on an outdated, unpublished article.

Apart from the FDA, the Commission on Population has also said that implants are non-abortifacients. And on Tuesday, Senator Risa Hontiveros came to its defense, saying that a lot of women have found implants “effective.” I know many people who swear by it too.

Calling to remove funding for implants is insensitive, especially for a man who will never have to worry about getting pregnant. I have to go through trial and error, trying out different kinds of birth control, just to see what fits me. Some, like the implant, have come close. But how are we supposed to know what’s best for our bodies if our options are limited?

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sexual health
birth control