After two years of legal wrangling, a family planning law to provide free hormonal contraceptives has been passed.
The law was set back by claims from the Catholic Church that the form of birth control “caused abortions”.
Today (Thursday, November 15) the Supreme Court threw out this claim and gave the green light to distribution.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said 51 types of contraceptive pills, coils and injectables could now be given out after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certified they did not cause abortions.
“It is now all systems go for us in the Department of Health to implement the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law,” he told reporters.
The reproductive health law was originally passed in 2012 in the face of strong Church opposition. However, abortion remained illegal in all forms and circumstances.
In the light of this prohibition, a religious group filed a case at the Supreme Court saying that some of the government-issued contraceptives were ‘abortifacients’ and therefore banned.
This led the court to issue a restraining order in 2015, halting the implementation of the law until all 51 contraceptives had been investigated by the FDA.
Rush to distribute old contraceptives
Stocks of contraceptives, purchased before the court order, are now being distributed to health offices and development groups before they reach their use-by date.
President Duterte, who is no friend of the Catholic Church, has long promised to deliver on the promise of free contraceptives.
Mr Duque confirmed that 4.2 billion pesos had been budgeted for the implementation of the law this year alone.
Juan Antonio Perez, of the government’s Population Commission, estimated that the two-year delay in implementing the law had resulted in half a million unplanned pregnancies.
He said that of the 20 million Filipinas of reproductive age, six million were already using contraceptives of some sort. He added that a million more were now expected to start using contraceptives each year.