Give women a choice: Supreme Court urged anew to lift hold order on RH law

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2017 10:08 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2017 03:52 PM

(UPDATED) A government agency tasked to manage the national population stressed on Wednesday the need for the Supreme Court to lift its hold order on selected passages of the reproductive health law, which they say limits women's contraceptive choices.

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012(Republic Act 10354) guarantees universal access to all methods of modern contraception, sex education, and maternal and child care, but the high court’s temporary restraining order hinders Filipinos from seeing the full range of family planning options, said the Commission on Population (POPCOM) in a statement.

“Because of the TRO, over 13.4 million Filipino women were affected . . . New contraceptives cannot be registered . . . and teenage pregnancies were on the rise,” said the statement, which was released on the same day the world celebrates International Women's Day.

Delays in the RH law’s full implementation can have adverse effects on the country's population, economy, and ecology. According to the commission, more than 13.4 million Filipino women were affected by the hold order — some 6.1 million who use contraceptives, and about 7.3 million who need family-planning measures.

“(The) Philippine population may blow up to 113,798,224 in 2022 from its current count at 104 million today . . . (The number of) mothers dying during childbirth may also rise by an additional 1,000 deaths a year during the next six years, according to the 2011 Family Health Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority,” the POPCOM said.

The commission also urged the Supreme Court to allow the health department (DOH) to distribute contraceptive implants for women, which the DOH and the United Nations Population Fund made available in the country from 2012 to 2015.

The temporary restraining order on the RH law includes the distribution of Implanon, a contraceptive implant for women, which the POPCOM says can help Filipino women curb unwanted pregnancies and significantly lower maternal deaths.

In January, the POPCOM said one reason to lift the TRO on the RH law was the possible shortage of contraceptives at health centers.

The TRO prohibits the DOH from approving new registrations for contraceptives. It also stopped the government from promoting and distributing the hormonal contraceptives Implanon and Implanon NXT.

Also in January, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order calling for the implementation of provisions of the RH law that were not covered by the Supreme Court’s hold order.

If the current registration of contraceptives expires without a final Supreme Court decision on legal challenges to the RH law, the government will be limited to offering tubal ligation, vasectomy and natural family planning methods, said JP Perez of POPCOM. 

Earlier this week, the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a petition at the Supreme Court pushing for the lifting of the TRO and the overturning of the court's decision stopping the use and sale of implants, based on their supposed "known character" as abortifacients, despite certification by the Food and Drug Administration.