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Reproductive Health Law Upheld in the Philippines

April 10, 2014

Yesterday in the Philippines, the country’s Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision upholding the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.  The decision, which was a major victory for reproductive health advocates in the Philippines, marked the conclusion of a 15-month legal battle that followed the passage of a reproductive health law that was itself the product of a 15-year legislative fight.

In December of 2012, the country’s legislature passed a reproductive health bill that, among other provisions, requires government health centers to hand out free condoms and birth control pills, as well as mandating that sex education be taught in public schools. The measure, which was vigorously opposed by the Catholic Church, will greatly expand access to family planning services and information, particularly in rural areas where the church’s opposition has effectively denied men and women access to modern methods of birth control, including condoms.

Not all provisions of the Reproductive Health Act, however, were upheld.  The Court struck down several provisions, including a measure requiring private health facilities and religious-affiliated hospitals not providing family planning services to refer patients to hospitals and clinics that do. 

While the Court’s decision was not a complete victory for reproductive health advocates, it is anticipated that the new law will significantly increase contraceptive usage in the Philippines, where women on average (total fertility rate) currently have three children. The population of the Philippines, currently 96.2 million, is projected to reach 151.9 million by 2050.

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