MANILA, Philippines—Less than half a month after it came into force, the Supreme Court was asked to stop the implementation of the reproductive health law.
In a 25-page petition for certiorari, couple James and Lovely Imbong, on behalf of their minor children and the Magnificat Child Development Center, said the law “mocks the nation’s Filipino culture.”
President Benigno Aquino III signed into law on December 21 the controversial measure, which will promote contraception, sexual education and family planning programs vigorously opposed by the country’s Roman Catholic Church.
Women groups and other supporters of the law have praised Aquino for pushing its passage within the first half of his six-year term after the measure languished in Congress for 13 years largely because legislators were reluctant to pass it amid strong opposition of the Catholic Church.
The petitioners said that Republic Act 10354 or the Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health is illegal and should be stopped.
“This case will present the illegality of the Act as it mocks the nation’s Filipino culture–noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life–now the fragile lifeblood of a treasured culture that today stands solitary but proud in contrast to other nations,” the petitioners said.
They said the new law violates the Constitution, which upholds the ideal of an unconditional respect for life and aspires for the formulation of policies creating opportunities to harness the economic potential of every Filipino.
The law mandates the government “to promote openness to life, qualified by a reference to the couple’s ability to raise their intended child or children in a truly humane way.”
“A plain reading of those provisions simply reveals the intentions of the Act to bring reproductive health care services within easy reach of the poor. By doing so, the poor become the primary targets of the state’s planned-parenthood policy—a subtle way of telling the poor that the state will subsidize their right to have access to modern methods of family planning simply because they are poor,” the petitioners said.
They pointed that the Constitution mandates a totally opposite approach, and that is to empower the poor to be “direct agents of change and primary beneficiaries of social services and economic opportunity.”
The petitioners said the high tribunal should take notice of the demographic trends of rich nations that are now “frantically correcting their mistakes” to cure the faltering birth and fertility rates.
“The measures land programs in the act, working together, will result in a decrease in an otherwise robust population growth rate, a dire consequence that puts to naught the modest but promising economic gains now seen in the country’s economy,” they added.
Named respondents are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Education Secretary Armin Luistro and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
In about a dozen provisions, the 24-page law repeatedly reminds that abortion drugs are banned, but it requires health workers to provide care for those who have complications arising from illegal abortions.
Under the law, the government will hire more village health workers who will distribute contraceptives, especially to the poor, and provide instructions on natural family planning methods that the Church approves.
The government will also train teachers who will provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents — youth age 10 to 19 years old. This will include information on protection against discrimination and sexual abuse and violence against women and children, teen pregnancy, and women’s and children’s rights.