[Statement] Respect freedom of choice in family planning, lift the TRO on implants and new contraceptives

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August 2015 – The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network joins women and their families in celebrating Family Planning Month this August. As affirmed by the Reproductive Health Law, Filipinos have the right to reproductive health information, goods and services. Women must have control over their own bodies, and must be able to decide if, when and how often to get pregnant. Couples must be able to plan for the number of children they can raise, nourish and care for.

However, even as we celebrate, we also recognize the threats to the RH Law, and call on women and men to stand up against forces bent on removing freedom of choice in family planning.

In June, with the prodding of anti-RH groups, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that prohibits the Department of Health from “[1] granting any and all pending applications for registration and/or recertification for reproductive products and supplies including contraceptive drugs and devices; and [2] procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting the hormonal contraceptive “Implanon” and “Implanon NXT.”

Even though many contraceptives passed FDA recertification prior to the TRO, and are thus available now in government facilities, the court order nonetheless restricts women’s access to the full range of safe and effective methods. Moreover, poor women who must rely on government supplies are the ones hardest hit. If maintained for a long time, the TRO can also prevent Filipinos from gaining benefits coming from scientific progress in contraception through a sweeping blockade on all new products.

The TRO’ed contraceptive implants are safe, effective and non-abortifacient. They work by preventing ovulation and blocking sperm. Medical and regulatory authorities in the World Health Organization, the European Union, developed countries and our own FDA are one in saying so. Many women prefer and have begun to enjoy the method’s three years of long-term but reversible pregnancy protection.

Unfortunately, on this issue, anti-RH groups disregard evidence and scientific consensus. From their own statements and actions, anti-RH groups are, at core, driven by their own religious beliefs to vigorously oppose all “artificial” methods of family planning. Such beliefs deserve respect, but should never be established as the norm through law or judicial action.

We call on the Supreme Court to uphold the human rights of Filipinos to health and to benefit from scientific progress. We call on the Supreme Court to consider the unjust burden and risks imposed by the TRO on poor women, and the inequities that occur when free services and goods are restricted. And finally, we call on the Supreme Court to promptly resolve this issue and uphold freedom of choice in family planning.

This is a press statement from the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) c/o the Secretariat 2014-2016, Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, Inc. For more details, contact Mina Tenorio, RHAN Secretariat, 0917-539-3862;  [email protected].

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