Fi­nally, full im­ple­men­ta­tion?

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

Af­ter more than two years in le­gal limbo, it looks like the re­pro­duc­tive health law may fi­nally be fully im­ple­mented. Repub­lic Act 10354, en­acted on Dec. 21, 2012, took ef­fect on Jan. 17, 2013. But af­ter their de­feat in Congress, op­po­nents of the Re­spon­si­ble Par­ent­hood and Re­pro­duc­tive Health Act took their 14-year leg­isla­tive bat­tle to the Supreme Court, which granted them one of its any­thing­but-tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­ders on June 2015.

Cov­ered by the TRO were con­tra­cep­tives that the Depart­ment of Health had pro­cured and in­tended to dis­trib­ute to pub­lic health cen­ters. The high court later clar­i­fied that its TRO cov­ered only two con­tra­cep­tive im­plants – Im­planon and Im­planon NXT – which RH op­po­nents claim are abor­ti­fa­cient.

The Depart­ment of Health, how­ever, in­ter­preted the TRO dif­fer­ently, not­ing that the Supreme Court had also stopped the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion from ap­prov­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for the regis­tra­tion and re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of con­tra­cep­tives. The DOH sent 51 con­tra­cep­tives to the FDA for test­ing.

Pres­i­dent Duterte, who had in­cluded re­pro­duc­tive health in his 10-point so­cioe­co­nomic agenda, had to is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in Jan­uary this year to side­step the TRO, but the court or­der con­tin­ued to de­prive mil­lions of women of ac­cess to RH ser­vices.

Now the FDA has cer­ti­fied all 51 con­tra­cep­tives, in­clud­ing the im­plants, as safe and not abor­ti­fa­cient. The SC said the FDA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion au­to­mat­i­cally ends the TRO, but an ap­peal may be filed; the FDA must make sure the process does not crawl along for an­other two years.

If an ap­peal doesn’t work, the hyp­ocrites in the Se­nate who op­pose the RH law but sup­port the restora­tion of the death penalty are vow­ing to take the fight to the bud­get process. The le­gal bat­tle has made the coun­try fail to meet re­pro­duc­tive health tar­gets un­der the United Na­tions Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals. Con­tra­cep­tives pur­chased by the DOH are set to ex­pire, and re­place­ments will be pro­cured at the ex­pense of tax­pay­ers. Pres­i­dent Duterte should use his im­mense pop­u­lar­ity to make his con­gres­sional al­lies show their sup­port for his so­cioe­co­nomic agenda. The RH law has been stalled long enough.

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