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It started as a joke among women in a Temporary Housing in Vitas, Tondo Manila.  They called themselves the Insert Club because they had one thing in common. They all havesubdermal implants, a long acting family planning contraceptive that gives women up to three years protection from unplanned pregnancies.

In a clinic run by LinanganngKababaihan (Likhaan) in Vitas, Sha-sha Yankee, 36, is the newest member of the Insert Club. The youngest member of this informal chapter is 17 while the oldest is more than 40.Sha-Sha and her husband already have four children ages 11, 9, 6 and a few-month-old babyand so she went with her neighbor to have an implant in the clinic. Vitas is a street in Tondo, one of the biggest districts in Manila City in terms of population and land area.

The clinic is a refuge for most health needs of the residents of this Temporary Housing in Vitas.  From afar, it looks like a storage facility but it is made up of 32 large structures built in 1995 supposedly as temporary housing for the residents of the world renowned dumpsite, Smokey Mountain in Payatas which has since beenshut down. These residents were then supposed to be relocated to Rizal or Bulacan provinces and the temporary housing would be closed.

“We are among the 800 families who are left here,” said MaryjaneJudilla, a Likhaan community worker. “By 2010, there were officially 4,700 families in this Temporary Housing but there must be more now.”

TRO on Implants and other scare tactics

On June 2015, acting on a petition by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for the sale, distribution, administering and dispensing of Implanon and Implanon NXT, brands of implants that Sha-Sha and her friends from the Insert Club were on.

The TRO is a major blow to the many clients of Likhaan not just in their Vitas clinic. According to LinaBacalando, of Likhaan, the most popular choice among their clients in their clinics was injectable contraceptives. But with the introduction of Implanon in 2013, implant became the preferred choice. “Getting such treatment in other private clinics and hospitals could cost you from P8,000 to P15,000.” Bacalando said. “Here, we provide it for free.”

Former Manila City Mayor LitoAtienza, now a BuhayPartylist Representative, was said to have visited the community and warned people that subdermal implants have “many side effects” including possible sterilization.

“Ang epekto sa amin ay pagkahilo dahil sa gutom at wala kaming makain. Nahihilo din kami kung sobrang mainit at walang kuryente. (The only effects are that we felt dizzy because we have nothing to eat and fainting because it gets too hot inside our houses when we have no electricity),” said BabylynYbanez, 25, who like Sha-Sha, is from Vitas Temporary Housing and a member of the Insert Club. Ybanez and her group are upset about the TRO.

Bacalando is also upset that the misinformation being spread against implants has affected clients in the clinic.  “Kung may sampu hanggang 15 na nagpapalagay, ganoon din kadami ang nagpapatanggal matapos ang TRO, (While we have 10 – 15 women daily who wanted to have the implant, 15 others are coming back to ask us to take their implants out),” she said.

The Insert Club Transforms

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“Unlike injectibles, you don’t have to return every three months,” J.L. of Sto. Nino, Tondo was 16 when she got pregnant by her live-in partner. After delivering her child, she decided to go back to school and is now enrolled in information technology. She is on implant since July 2015.

Ginny Diola, 40, who has three children andwho had her implant in 2014 said that almost all their husbands and partners work in the dumpsite, earning about P150 to P200 a day. The women usually augment their income by peeling garlic cloves for P60 per sack, that is, if there is garlic to peel.

Sha-sha Yankee said that they buy their water because the pumps can no longer draw water. They also buy electricity from those rich enough to have connections. There is no sanitary toilet in the 32 houses in the Temporary Housing. The plastic bag “bombs” of human waste fly at night in the darkness.

Judilla said that people like Atienza use politics to enforce their religious and personal beliefs and it continues to affect the lives of women in Manila. He does not understand the poverty that these women are experiencing from having large families. “When Atienza was still mayor of Manila, we went to him to ask help for our water and electricity, he said we no longer existed as the last of the people here should have been relocated,” Judilla said.

The members of this gregarious informal group became like a “Fight Club” in defense of the implant by actively giving testimonies and encouragement to other women in their community.

That is why many young mothers are already members of the Insert Club from the Temporary Housing, said Judilla.  They want their children to escape this life, she said.

But the fight is far from over.  The Commission on Population estimates that there had been an additional500,000 unintended pregnancies since the imposition of the TRO in 2015 and more than 1,100 maternal deaths.

With this scenario, the country needs more “Fight Clubs” to assert women’s right to family planning and reproductive health services.

Read related articles:

Pregnant 13-year Olds and the Crisis in Family Planning Supplies

Women’s Reproductive Health Rights Stagger with TRO