September 21, 2016
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) laments the Supreme Court’s order to indefinitely extend the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the procurement, promotion, and provision of a brand of contraceptive implants. This decision is a major setback to recent gains in reproductive health in the country, including the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law of 2012, which guarantees access to the full range of family planning services, among others.
The Supreme Court questioned the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) process on certifying contraceptives as “non-abortifacients,” and demanded the redrafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) of RPRH Law of 2012.
The World Health Organization (2005) recommends a period of at least 24 months after birth before another attempt at pregnancy to “reduce adverse maternal, perinatal, and infant outcomes”. Mistimed pregnancies may prevent a woman from pursuing advancement opportunities, further contributing to their marginalization. Concerns on the hazards of hormonal implant use must be assuaged, as there is consensus among family planning experts worldwide on its safety and reliability.
While contraceptive prevalent rate has slowly but steadily increased in the recent years, the Department of Health (DOH) reports that seven million Filipinas have yet unmet needs for family planning. Currently, 300,000 units of hormonal implant are being kept in DOH warehouses, pending the lifting of the Supreme Court TRO. Access to these contraceptives could have significantly reduced the number of Filipino women needing family planning services.
Enactment of the RH Law was a 12-year struggle for its champions and advocates from various sectors. We regret that after years of struggle in the legislative mill, barriers to the law’s full implementation of the RPRH Law are present in both executive and judicial branches of the government, the most recent and challenging of which is this latest decision by the Supreme Court.
PLCPD condemns moves that impinge on women’s right to reliable and safe family planning implements. Duty bearers must exhaust legal remedies in response to this definitive assault to women’s reproductive health, and together, all of us must ensure the faithful and meaningful implementation of the RPRH Law.