A closer look at 2 contraceptive pills

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 07 2010 10:09 AM | Updated as of Sep 07 2010 10:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The call to legalize abortion in the country has been getting stronger.

From New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and international women's group EnGendeRights to award-winning journalist Ninotchka Rosca, groups have been asking the government to allow abortion in certain circumstances and provide more access to contraceptives.

CRR, in particular, noted that the criminalization of abortion in the Philippines has led to health complications and untimely deaths of pregnant women.

Citing studies, the rights group said 1,000 out of the 560,000 women who tried to induce an abortion in 2008 died from complications. CRR said common methods of inducing an abortion in the country include painful abdominal massages and the insertion of a catheter into the uterus, among others.

"Women in the Philippines continue to die or suffer from grave complications from unsafe abortion procedures, producing a massive and unnecessary public health crisis and violating the fundamental human rights of Filipino women," CRR said in a report titled The Harmful Impact of Philippine Criminal Abortion.

The group continued, "If women had greater control over their fertility through effective methods of family planning and access to unbiased, truthful medical information, there would be far fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer women who would be compelled to resort to unsafe abortions."

Abortion is considered illegal in the Philippines, a mainly Catholic country. Despite arguments posed by different groups, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has maintained that the high death rate from unsafe abortions is not enough justification to legalize the said practice.

Still, it may be useful to take a look at recent breakthroughs on oral contraception across the globe. Here are 2 of them:

Ella / EllaOne

Just last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug for emergency contraception.

Called Ella (ulipristal acetate), the drug is manufactured by French company Laboratoire HRA Pharma. It successfully "prevents pregnancy when taken orally within 120 hours (5 days) after a contraceptive failure or unprotected intercourse" by inhibiting or delaying ovulation, the FDA was quoted as saying.

The drug, distributed into the United States by New Jersey-based Watson Pharma Inc., was welcomed by family-planning proponents as "a crucial new option to prevent unwanted pregnancies."

Critics, however, claimed that it could also be used to induce an abortion even as FDA said that "it is not intended for routine use as a contraceptive."

Ella has been available in Europe since May last year under the name EllaOne, and is available in at least 22 countries.

Rigoberto Tiglao, ambassador of the Philippines to Athens, Greece and a former journalist, earlier said that Ella is likely to "soon trickle into the country," citing the Filipinos' tendency to be heavily influenced by US culture and consumer products.

"With Ella now available in the US, expect the drug to soon trickle into the country, followed by approval by our local drug-regulatory agency -- unless the Church manages to block it," he wrote in his column at a local newspaper.

Misoprostol

Misoprostol, unlike Ella (or EllaOne), has been used by people across the globe for quite some time now.

Initially developed as a drug to prevent stomach ulcers, misoprostol was found by researchers to induce miscarriage during early pregnancy.

Tiglao called it the "scientific counterpart of the herbal abortifacients Filipino women have been using for centuries, concocted by our albularyos."

"The big difference, of course, is that misoprostol's effectiveness is proven through rigorous scientific method and not in the hit-or-miss manner of concocting what is euphemistically called menstruation-inducing herbal concoctions," he wrote.

Misoprostol was marketed as Cytotec, and was banned in 2002 after some people abused the drug to induce contractions.

Despite this, reports said it can still be bought in the black market for $4.