It’s not an SC decision
I have a bottom-line absolute over which I won’t compromise: Everyone has the right to live whatever life they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. And no one has a right to impose their beliefs on that. And that includes the Catholic Church. It may preach to its flock, even dictate to it if it wishes. But it can’t impose its will on society as a whole.
I am not a Catholic. I should have every right to buy contraceptives if I wish to. I am greatly angered by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, which petitioned the Supreme Court to halt the distribution of contraceptive implants Implanon and Implanon NXT that would prevent pregnancy for up to three years. It has no right—I repeat, no right—to dictate to me. And to others who think differently from it.
Reportedly 11 mothers die daily—over 4,000 a year—because of too frequent pregnancies and resultant complications. And 25 infants and 31 toddlers under 5 per 1,000 die of malnutrition and inadequate care because parents can’t feed them or keep them healthy, and the family planning clinics aren’t there to help them. The heartless Alliance doesn’t care in its religious bigotry. The Alliance is complicit in these deaths.
I am also saddened by a high court that has sat on the issue by way of a TRO for more than a year. It’s not in the high court’s competence to decide. Are Implanon and Implanon NXT abortifacients or not? Medical doctors decide that; they’ve decided these are not.
Former health secretary Janette Garin said Implanon and Implanon NXT have been certified by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration as “not an abortifacient.” She clarified that “the mode of action is preventing ovulation.” So the implants are not abortifacients.
In its Contraceptive Commodities for Women’s Health report released in 2012, Unicef (or the United Nations Children’s Fund) noted that contraceptive implants such as Implanon and Implanon NXT are “safe, highly effective and quickly reversible long-acting progestin-only contraceptives that require little attention after insertion.”
The Supreme Court should just throw out the case as being outside its expertise. This is not a legal matter but a medical one. Legally, this same court has already said the state may distribute contraceptives under its family planning program as long as these are not abortifacients. It ruled in 2014 that the Reproductive Health Law was legal and conditional. And contraceptives were allowed, and allowed to be provided if these weren’t abortifacients. So whether contraceptive implants are abortifacients or not is a medical determination.
President Duterte has expressed support for family planning. He is even set to issue an executive order directing the full implementation of the RH Law. This also fulfills a key aspect of his 10-point socioeconomic agenda—to enable couples, especially the poor, to make informed choices on financial and family planning.
Contraceptives are but one aspect of family planning. There are far, far more, and perhaps more important, including the guidance to mothers and expectant mothers that family planning clinics can provide. Age-appropriate education on the physiology of the human body, an understanding of sex, and a responsible attitude to it are equally important if we want to reduce the number of teenage girls who become pregnant before their time. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, some 14 percent of Filipino girls aged 15-19 are either pregnant for the first time or are already mothers.
Ignorance plays a big part in this situation, and teaching about sex would reduce unwanted teenage births dramatically. That’s a proven fact. Yet the Alliance and others cruelly oppose it. They want young people ignorant.
This brings up an interesting point that has long challenged me: Why hasn’t the Catholic Church used its vast influence to encourage late marriage—well into the 20s, not early teens as now? Surely that’s an acceptable “method of contraception.” That would reduce the birth rate uncontroversially.
Let the Supreme Court lift the TRO now!
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