The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act was signed into law by former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in 2012. Three years later, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on certain contraceptives for allegedly having “abortifacient” qualities.
Forty-eight contraceptives were affected by the TRO released in 2015, 15 of which expired in 2016. More are expected to disappear from the market by next year.
The main purpose for contraceptives is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Some contraceptives do this by delaying ovulation, while some pills thicken the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to pass through. The TRO was granted following a formal complaint filed to the SC by the Alliance for the Family and Foundation. According to the complaint, there are 77 contraceptive brands that cause abortion. The TRO effectively prohibits the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA)’s approval or re-certification of these reproductive products.
Weighing the pros and cons
According to the 2016 report of the United Nations Population Fund, one in 10 Filipino women between the ages of 15 to 19 have already given birth at least once. Meanwhile, the Philippines National Demographic and Health Survey reveals that one in three births are unplanned.
Other than their intended use for birth control, oral contraceptives are also prescribed to women with medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Endometriosis, and Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, to name a few. According to critics, the non-lifting of the TRO in the immediate future will render the oral contraceptive market obsolete. This also limits the treatment options for women suffering from gynecological diseases.
However, despite its medical benefits, the use of contraceptive drugs also has side effects. For one, sexually active women have increased susceptibility to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) when ingesting oral contraceptives.
Theology and Religious Education Department Assistant Professor Ronaldo Celestial stresses the need for contraceptive drugs and devices to undergo tests by the FDA. This will ensure that they are non-life threatening and safe for public use and consumption.
According to Celestial, the issuance of the TRO by the Supreme Court is statutory, as it simply upholds the provisions of the RPRH Law and the Constitution. He also adds that the TRO does not put a stop to the whole RPRH Law. “The government can proceed with the implementation except with matters pertaining to contraceptives,” he explains.
On the other hand, Economics Department Professor Ma. Ella Oplas believes the main essence of the RPRH Law is to provide people with choices. “I think it is vital for people to be given choices, and for those choices to be readily available,” she states.
The DLSU community on the RPRH Law
In a statement released by the DLSU faculty last 2012, professors which signed believed that the Reproductive Health Bill to be pro-life. Some students of the University also expressed their support for the then-bill, stating that it was to be beneficial to a poverty-stricken country like the Philippines. Others believed that it would empower people to make better choices because it provides knowledge and awareness on sex.
Oplas, however, believes that the country is not ready for the full implementation of the RPRH Law. She argues that there is a lack of assurance if there is actually a demand for contraceptives among Filipinos, and if the law will ever be fully implemented given the limited budget of the government.
Oplas proposes that, prior to the full implementation of the law, the government should first direct its efforts into information dissemination about the use of contraceptives. She adds that evaluating the results upon full implementation would also help in determining whether or not contraceptives are really a viable birth control option for the people.
Similar to the stand of pro-life groups and the Catholic Church, for Celestial, the best method of family planning is fertility awareness or the Natural Family Planning method. This method determines the woman’s fertility period by tracking her menstrual cycle. It informs the couple of the time period in which they should not engage in sexual intercourse in order to avoid pregnancy.
“This method may present some hassle or difficulty, but it encourages communication between the couple and is 100 percent side effect-free on the woman’s physical well-being,” Celestial adds.
Meanwhile, Oplas believes that the RPRH Law only contributes, not attributes, to population control. She believes that other than the use of contraceptives, there are also other ways to bring down population, such as by giving disincentives for bearing another child.
She also adds that one priority of the Duterte administration today, which is building infrastructures, also helps curb population growth as it entices foreign investors. These investments will then create job opportunities for Filipinos that provide them with the capacity to rear children and have a comfortable life.