By Manolo B. Jara
MANILA: The Supreme Court (SC) has extended its temporary ban on the purchase of “artificial” birth control methods like contraceptive implants, a move which family planning advocates feared would further set back the government’s determined efforts to reduce the country’s galloping population growth rate.
In its decision, the SC extended the temporary restraining order it issued in July 2015 stopping the purchase by the Department of Health of contraceptive implants pending further investigation by the Food and Drug Administration due to fears these cause abortion.
Earlier, the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines (AFFP) asked the High Court to temporarily stop the purchase of artificial birth control devices that not only included contraceptive implants but also the pill, condom and intrauterine device.
The AFFP is closely identified with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that has firmly opposed the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law that aims to encourage especially poor couples to practise family planning.
Benjamin de Leon, the head of the non-government organisation Forum for Family Planning and Development lamented the SC decision as he warned: “...hundreds of women remain at risk from health issues that are otherwise easily preventable.”
De Leon noted the decision also represented a major setback during the administration of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte who made family planning a major policy programme to help reduce the increasing number of Filipinos now totalling at more than 100 million.
The implementation of the law would empower women to make more sensible life decisions that will create a strong impact on the country’s social and economic development, according to De Leon.
He cited latest figures from the Family Health Surveys showing that the number of Filipino women who have died due to pregnancy and childbirth-related complications remain high at 321 per 100,000 live births.
This means, De Leon said, that up to 14 to 15 maternal deaths occur in the Philippines daily.
Under the law, the government is mandated to purchase contraceptives particularly the pill and condom for free distribution to poor couples who want to limit the number of their children.