Philippine court rules family planning law legal

April 8, 2014

The Philippine Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a family planning law is constitutional, allowing the government to provide reproductive health care services primarily to the country's poor despite strong opposition to the law from the Roman Catholic Church.

Supporters of the law cheered as court spokesman Theodore Te announced the ruling in northern Baguio city, where it was issued.

President Benigno Aquino III signed the law in December 2012 but the court imposed a temporary restraining order while it studied petitions questioning its constitutionality.

Te said the court did consider some details within the law to be unconstitutional: One provision would have punished who failed or refused to support reproductive health programs, and a rule governing how the law is implemented would have defined abortifacients—drugs or devices—as only those that "primarily" induce abortion.

Opponents have 15 days to ask the court to reconsider its ruling, Te said.

Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church's core values and say it promotes promiscuity and destroys life. The government says it helps the poor manage the number of children they have and provides for maternal health care.

Aquino had certified the legislation as urgent, aiming to reduce maternal deaths and promote family planning in the impoverished country that has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations.

The U.N. Population Fund counts 3.4 million pregnancies in the Philippines annually; half are unintended and a third are aborted, often in clandestine and unsafe procedures. The fund says 11 women in the country die of pregnancy-related causes every day.

The law directs government health centers to provide universal and free access to nearly all contraceptives to everyone, particularly the country's poorest, which account for about a third of the country's 96 million population. Some local officials who support the church have banned free distribution of condoms and other contraceptives in their areas.

Another key feature of the law makes sexual education compulsory in public schools.

The law specifically bans abortion drugs, but it requires health workers to provide care for those who have complications from illegal abortions.

Under the law, the government will hire more village health workers who will distribute contraceptives, especially to the poor, and provide instructions on natural methods approved by the church.

The government will train teachers who will provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to 10- to 19-year-old youths. This will include information on protection against discrimination and sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, and women's and children's rights.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, one of the sharpest critics of the law, told ABS-CBN television that the law will promote abortion.

"Reproductive health is a misnomer because it is against reproduction," he said.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, hailed the Supreme Court decision because "millions of Filipino women will finally be able to regain control of their fertility, health, and lives" with universal and free access to modern contraceptives.

"The Reproductive Health Law is a historic step forward for all women in the Philippines, empowering them to make their own decisions about their health and families and participate more fully and equally in their society," she said.

The U.N. Population Fund welcomed the court's decision, saying it "recognizes the basic human right of Filipinos to reproductive ."

"The full and speedy implementation of the law will be critically important in reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to care," it said, citing the "consistently high" maternal mortality ratio of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births in the country.

Explore further: Philippine top court halts contraceptives law (Update)

Related Stories

Philippine top court halts contraceptives law (Update)

March 19, 2013
(AP)—The Philippine Supreme Court temporarily halted the implementation of a law that provides state funding for contraceptives, legislation opposed by the dominant Roman Catholic Church but supported by reproductive health ...

Philippine president approves contraceptives law

December 29, 2012
(AP)—The Philippine president has signed a law that will promote contraception, sexual education and family planning programs vigorously opposed by the country's Roman Catholic Church.

Philippines OKs divisive contraceptives bill

December 17, 2012
Philippine legislators passed a landmark bill Monday that would provide government funding for contraceptives and sexuality classes in schools despite strong opposition by the dominant Roman Catholic Church and its followers, ...

Philippine leader defends controversial 'cyber libel' law

February 19, 2014
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Wednesday defended a controversial cybercrime law penalising online libel, a day after the top court upheld its legality in a setback for campaigners who argue it could curb Internet ...

Federal appeals court to review Texas abortion law

January 6, 2014
A federal appeals court is set to review a Texas law that led to the closing of many abortion clinics in the state.

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.