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People Power in Philippines: Reproductive Health Law Upheld

April 8, 2014

After more than a decade languishing in Congress and another year in the courts, the Philippines’ Reproductive Health Law (RH Law) was declared largely constitutional by the Supreme Court earlier today. The RH Law will provide millions of women in the country with improved access to the reproductive healthcare they need, including contraception.

“Today, conscience rights have prevailed, despite aggressive lobbying over the last decade and a half by the Catholic bishops and their powerful antichoice allies,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “While preserving the core of the law, which requires the government to provide a full range of family planning services to the public, today’s decision limits the scope of coverage, offering exemptions for religiously-affiliated hospitals and clinics and allowing healthcare providers and institutions to cite religious beliefs and deny contraceptives to patients.

“Although not perfect, the RH Law begins to address some of the country’s largest health problems—including the high maternal mortality rate—that disproportionately affect low-income women.

“Despite pressure from the pulpit and the courtroom, the vast majority of Filipinos support increasing access to contraception and policies that enable women and men to follow their consciences when it comes to whether and when to have children. In fact, a recent poll shows that 77 percent of Filipinos support the RH Law, and at least 84 percent believe the government should provide free services to the poor who choose to use modern family planning methods banned by the bishops.

“Today, the Philippines took another step towards providing the healthcare that its citizens need to maintain healthy and productive lives. We hope and trust that there will be many more of these steps in the near future.”