Gov’t intensifies free contraceptives drive
President Duterte on Monday ordered government agencies to ensure free access to contraceptives for 6 million poor women, in a move expected to be opposed by the Catholic Church and prolife groups.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Executive Order No. 12 was intended to implement the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, or RH Law, which is important to reduce poverty.
He said the government’s target was to cut the poverty rate from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent or 13 percent by the end of Mr. Duterte’s term in 2022.
“All women of reproductive age should be able to achieve their desired family size, their de- sired number of children rather than having more children than they want or they can afford and provide for adequately, and that is exactly the essence of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law,” Pernia said at a press briefing in Malacañang.
Mr. Duterte issued the order despite a restraining order from the Supreme Court stopping the government from procuring and distributing contraceptives.
The high court order has limited the implementation of the RH Law, Pernia said.
Under EO 12, the Department of Health (DOH), the Commission on Population and the Department of the Interior and Local Government will work with local governments for the provision of contraceptives and family planning services.
The local governments, according to the EO, should look for couples and individuals who want to limit the size of their family but cannot afford contraceptives and provide them with what they need.
The local governments, it said, can team up with nonprofit organizations and private groups in order to provide family planning services.
They should also conduct community-based “demand generation and referral activities” to see to it that quality modern family planning information and services are available.
The DOH will review the gaps in the implementation of the RH Law and issue orders and guidelines needed to support local governments and civil society organizations in ensuring the availability of contraceptives and family planning services.
Other government agencies were ordered to support EO 12. Commission on Population Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said the EO would not be contrary to the Supreme Court temporary restraining order because the court order covered only subdermal implants and not other contraceptives, at least for now.
But if the court order would remain in place in the next three to four years, the licenses for other contraceptives would expire and the government would not be able to provide them, Perez said.
“Unless the Supreme Court lifts the [temporary restraining order], the government will be left with methods like tubal ligation, vasectomy and the natural family planning methods. So the modern methods, which we call ‘artificial methods,’ might have problems,” he said.