The struggle for the full and unrestrained implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012 (RA 10354) has reached a crucial level today as the Department of Health contests the recent Supreme Court decision of August 24, 2016 by filing a motion for reconsideration before the highest court. The SC decision, if uncontested, could put to a halt the most effective methods of the Family Planning program which is being implemented by the DOH and the Commission on Population (POPCOM) through local government units and civil society nationwide and lead to increased mortality and morbidity among women and infants.
“If carried out, the SC decision could result in over 900 additional maternal deaths every year arising from almost 1 million unintended pregnancies that could have been addressed by the full implementation of the Family Planning Program,” POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III asserted. “This would mean a 30% rise in maternal deaths in the country,” Dr Perez said.
Although the RH Law was passed in 2012 and its IRR approved in March 2013, there have been restraints through TROs on its implementation for 28 months in the last 3 and a half years.
President Rodrigo Duterte called for the full implementation of the law in his SONA as late as last July. The DOH’s National Implementation Team (NIT) for the RH Law headed by former Secretary Esperanza Cabral had recommended an Executive Order that would accelerate the implementation of the law through community-based, house to house campaigns to reach out to the 4 million women and men who wanted to avail of the program.
“Those who opposed the law in the legislative arena are now trying to reverse the judgment of history through backdoor judicial dilatory tactics, but the millions of Filipinos who stand to benefit from the law will surely bring all of this to an end. The inevitable deaths of hundreds of women and unborn infants will surely haunt those who want to undo an essential public health program,” Dr. Perez stated.
The Commission on Population has headed the Secretariat of the RH Law National Implementation Team (NIT) since January, 2015. In its annual reports, the NIT has noted the steady progress of the law’s implementation as the number of women and men using modern family planning methods have increased from 38% in 2013 to 43% in 2015.
However, the TRO on the popular progesterone subdermal implant (PSI) since June 2015 has hampered the further expansion of the family planning program.
The Supreme Court has also stopped the re-registration of current contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) since June, 2015. This has led to the withdrawal from the market (and family planning program) of 14 out of 48 registered contraceptives in the country. New contraceptives are also effectively barred by the SC TRO.
“By the end of 2017, more than half of the contraceptives will lose their registration and Filipino consumers will be faced with more expensive products while the government will also be limited in the choice of methods to procure. This is certainly a far cry from the expectations of the people in 2012 when the law was approved by the people’s legislators,” Dr. Perez stressed.
The Commission on Population called on the Supreme Court to reverse its decision and lift the TRO and allow the unrestrained implementation of RA 10354.