NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–March 21, 2013. Earlier today the Philippine Supreme Court ordered a three-month delay in the implementation of a new groundbreaking law that guarantees universal and free access to nearly all modern contraceptives for all citizens, including impoverished communities, through government health centers. The law also mandates reproductive health education in government schools and recognizes a woman’s right to post-abortion care as part of the right to reproductive healthcare.
The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which was scheduled to begin implementation on March 31, was immediately challenged in court by Catholic groups after President Benigno S. Aquino III signed the measure into law in December 2012.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The passage of this bill was a great victory for the health and human rights of Filipino women and their families. Yet the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines is trying to use the courts to impose its ideology on women seeking to control their reproductive lives.
“Access to reproductive health care, including contraception, is a fundamental human right and essential to the health and well-being of all individuals.
“It’s imperative that President Aquino, Filipino leaders and the Supreme Court put an end to these delay tactics and implement this law to protect women’s reproductive rights.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is among a number of conservative groups and individuals who have filed petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law. The temporary restraining order will be in effect for 120 days. Oral arguments on the consolidated petitions will begin on June 18.
Around the world, the unmet need for safe and effective contraceptive services is staggering: roughly 222 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy rely on traditional contraceptive methods with high failure rates or do not use a contraceptive method at all.
The Filipino government’s hostility towards modern contraception has contributed to 800,000 unintended births and 475,000 illegal abortions each year.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has built a significant presence throughout Asia, with major campaigns addressing issues ranging from maternal mortality in India to access to modern contraception in the Philippines. In Manila, the Center has documented the human rights violations that stem from an executive order that effectively bans access to modern contraceptives and that prevents women from controlling their reproductive autonomy.
In March 2011, the Center and UNFPA released the joint briefing paper, The Right to Contraceptive Information and Services for Women and Adolescents, demonstrating how access to family planning information and services is a fundamental human right that States are obligated to actively respect, protect, and fulfill.