Sereno: RH law protects mothers' health

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2013 07:37 PM | Updated as of Jul 24 2013 10:05 AM

Tells anti-RH petitioners their arguments have been negated

MANILA (UPDATED) - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno told one of the counsels for petitioners against the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, Atty. Luisito Liban, that the petitioners' arguments have been "negated" concerning the supposed hazards the law may cause on the health of women.

During the continuation on Tuesday of oral arguments on 14 petitions assailing the constitutionality of the law, Sereno told Liban that the law is "replete" with provisions that aim to protect the well-being of mothers.

Liban's arguments before the magistrates focused on the "health hazards" that contraceptive drugs and devices may cause women.

Sereno, however, pointed out that there are enough safeguards in the RH Law and what may be lacking may be provided in the guidelines for its implementation.

"You keep on saying that there are so many risks. Is there anything in the law that gives us a clue [as to these risks]? I don't see anything in the law that is insensitive to the needs of women, not at all in the law. It's the law that we are talking about...

"Perhaps we have not seen other facets of the law that provide the balancing. In other words, your arguments have been negated. I see Sec. 22, I see Sec. 19. I'm going to use as interpretative mechanisms, the other policies in the entire law trying to protect the health of the mother,"Sereno said.

To which Liban replied: "In the law itself there is no safety net, no safety mechanism to ensure the safety of the users of contraceptives."

"Go to Sec. 22. There is a Congressional Oversight Committee. Let's go to Congress again. We have never stricken down a law for being lack of comprehensiveness," Sereno replied, referring to the provision which directs the creation of an Oversight Committee "to monitor and ensure the effective implementation" of the RH Law.

"Sec. 22 provides you your step forward. We don't have an actual case here. We have not had a test case here... We do not have a Congressional Oversight Committee has reneged in its statutory duty to protect women. What we have are fears to go on," Sereno said.

Liban, however, maintained that the RH Law has violated the Constitution and insisted that the measure violates the free practice of religious beliefs, freedom of couples to found a family based on their own religious convictions, freedom of free speech, among others.

Meantime, a magistrate of the Supreme Court has raised serious questions on the effects of contraceptive drugs on the health of women.

Associate Justice Roberto Abad cited medical studies that show contraceptive drugs or hormonal contraceptives are "not altogether safe."

Abad asserted that certain reports tend to show that these contraceptives are "essentially poison."

"Contraceptives attack healthy ovaries, say manufacturers, themselves... It would appear these government-sponsored contraceptives as admitted by the manufacturers are not altogether safe... the Court needs only common sense..." Abad said. 

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, meantime, has been consistent in pointing out that tests must be conducted by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) to support petitioners claims about the "hazardous effects" of contraceptives.

The oral arguments will continue on the first week of August with the next counsel for petitioners to present the next anti-RH Law argument.