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SC urged to lift TRO on contraceptive implants

/ 05:40 PM November 14, 2016

Reproductive health advocates on Monday asked the Supreme Court to allow the Department of Health (DOH) to proceed with the procurement and distribution of controversial contraceptive implants.

In a 20-page motion, the intervenors urged the high court to lift the restraining order it issued last June 2015.

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The intervenors – which include the Filipinos Voices for Reproductive health (C4RH), Philippine NGO Council on Population health and Welfare (PNGOC), Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD) and Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and former Presidential Assistant for Social Development Ben de Leon – also urged the high court to reconsider its ruling that struck down the certifications and re-certifications issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 77 contraceptive drugs and devices – including Implanon and Implanon NXT – for violation of constitutional requirement of due process.

“The TRO and order violate women’s reproductive health and rights as enshrined in various international human rights instruments which the Philippines is a signatory to, and national laws protecting women’s rights,” intervenors said in their motion.

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They warned that depriving women access to contraceptives would result in further deterioration of the country’s problematic reproductive health situation.

They said unplanned pregnancy rate of 40 percent would shoot up, including teenage pregnancy rate which is among the world’s highest. They added that the maternal deaths from preventable childbirth complications now at 14 deaths per day will also increase.

“Moreover, intergenerational poverty will not stop as poor parents will continue to be unable to provide for their many children,” they added.

The DOH raised similar arguments in its appeal filed last month when it appealed the high court’s denial of their request to lift the restraining order.

A restraining order was issued last year by the high court’s second division following a petition filed by the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (Alfi) which claimed that the Department of Health’s (DOH) implementation of Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law) disregarded due process and can be considered a grave abuse of discretion.

Alfi also wants a blanket restraining order not just for hormonal contraceptive ‘Implanon’ and Implanon NXT’ but other similar products.

“To lift the TRO (temporary restraining order) at this time would be to grant a motion for execution before a trial. The Court emphasized that the TRO did not mean that the FDA should stop fulfilling its mandate to test, analyze and scrutinize and inspect drugs and [devices],” high court said.

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The high court explained that the subject of the TRO is the granting of certification or recertification of contraceptive drugs without giving Alfi the opportunity to air its objections. Also covered by the TRO is the distribution and administration of Implanon and Implanon NXT and similar contraceptives until they are determined to be safe.

In the same ruling, the high court also ordered the DOH and the FDA to come up with guidelines, procedures in the screening, evaluation, approval, purchase and distribution of contraceptive drugs, hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other safe, legal, non-abortifacient family planning products and supplies,

The high court told DOH and FDA to observe the basic requirements of due process for those opposing the purchase, distribution of the  said products, publication and notice of hearing and follow the standard laid down under the Constitution and RH Law that what should be allowed are those products “that do not harm or destroy the life of the unborn from conception/fertilization.”

“The rules and regulations or guidelines shall provide sufficient details as to the manner by which said product and supply shall be strictly regulated in order that they will not be used as an abortifacient and in order to sufficiently safeguard the right to life of the unborn,” the high court added.

The high court also ordered the government to amend the implementing rules and regulations to conform to its decision declaring the RH Law constitutional.

In 2014, the high court ruled that the RH Law is “not unconstitutional.”

In its ruling, it declared unconstitutional eight of the law’s provisions./rga

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TAGS: Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc., Filipinos Voices for Reproductive health, Implanon, Reproductive health advocates, Supreme Court
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