April 21, 2014
The Philippine Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month to uphold a landmark reproductive health law as constitutional is an important victory for millions of Filipino women and girls, Amnesty International said.
The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, also known as the RH Bill, was passed in December 2012. However, the legislation process was controversial and heated debates and rallies both supporting and opposing the RH Bill took place nationwide. As a result, the Supreme Court delayed implementation of the law in March 2013 in response to the challenges.
The court’s recent decision, which will require the government to provide free contraception to millions of the nation’s poorest women, is being welcomed by activists across the country. According to Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Philippines, the Supreme Court ruling is a victory for the independence of the judiciary and means that millions of women and girls have a right to access the medical services and information that they need. As well as enabling public health centres to distribute contraceptives, the law will also introduce reproductive health education into the nation’s schools, in line with international human rights obligations, which includes ensuring that reproductive health education is accurate and comprehensive and that it promotes gender equality.
Unfortunately, a total of eight provisions in the law were deemed to be unconstitutional by the court – these included key provisions that would have prohibited health practitioners from refusing to provide reproductive health services. It also would have required all private health facilities, including those owned by religious groups, to provide family planning methods, including medical consultations, supplies and procedures. Girls under 18 who already have children or who have suffered a miscarriage would have been granted access to modern family planning methods, including contraception, without the need for a written consent from their parents.
Amnesty International wrote: “Striking down these provisions of the law mean that some women and adolescents will be at risk of not accessing services they need and are lawfully entitled to receive. The state should, at a minimum fulfil its international human rights obligations and ensure that there are providers willing and able to provide services and that spousal and parental consent requirements do not hinder women’s and adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health care services.”
Source: website Amnesty