Acceptance in the Philippines of reproductive health law changes on both sides of contraception debate

11-Apr-2014 Intellasia | ABC | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, or RH law, was signed off by President Benigno Aquino in December 2012 allowing public health centres to hand out contraceptives and to teach sex education in schools.

The law was challenged by the Catholic church as being unconstitutional.

In its original form, the law would have also allowed minors access to birth control without parental consent, and imposed penalties on health care providers who refused to provide information about contraceptives on the basis of religious belief.

These and six other clauses have now been struck out as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but the law itself is deemed constitutional.

The ruling appears to have been accepted by both the pro- and anti contraception lobbies.

Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines has accepted the court’s decision, saying “it’s not really that bad.”

Congresswoman Luz Illagan from the Gabriela Women’s Party, who has worked closely on the law, also says she accepts the exclusions.

“We agree that people should not be forced into policies that would be promoting population control,” she says, “but if it is a policy that would ensure informed choice, then that would be in accordance with the spirit of the law.”

Advocates of the law say it will slow population growth and reduce maternal deaths.

Amnesty International claims the long-standing hostility to modern contraception in the Philippines has contributed to 4,500 women dying from pregnancy complications, 800,000 unintended births and 475,000 illegal abortions each year.

Defending the church’s position against contraceptives Archbishop Oscar Cruz says the church has never preached irresponsible parenthood.

“It is in church teaching and in church law that the parents may only have the children they can afford to take care of, but through natural family planning, not through contraceptives,” he said.

For Archbishop Cruz, the RH law could now lead to a legitimatisation of abortion, an increase in divorce and same sex marriage, all of which the Church strongly opposes.

Congresswoman Illagan says the law should not be seen as a measure of women’s rights to health and family planning.

Ms Illagan says, however, that the court ruling is not the end to the struggle.

“The budget has to be allocated, we have to find whether agencies will really carry out the provisions of this law,” she said.

“However there are already existing policies which contravene the essence of the RH law.”


Category: Philippines

Print This Post

Comments are closed.