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Duterte vows full implementation of RH law

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday vowed the full implementation of the Reproductive Health law, a legislation passed by Congress four years ago under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Speaking before the joint session of Congress for his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte said it is high time for the government to give priority to promoting responsible parenthood and reproductive health as it is vital in his administration’s quest to reduce poverty and promote economic growth.

“The implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law must be put into full force and effect,” Duterte said during his SONA delivered at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

Signed into law by Aquino in December 2012, the Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act faced many hurdles in its implementation especially after the Supreme Court struck down some of its provisions as well as a budget cut by Congress for its implementation for 2016 by nearly P1 billion.

Duterte said the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law is necessary “so that couples especially the poor will have freedom of informed choice on the number and spacing of children.”

Duterte said that with the right number and spacing of their children, parents “can adequately care and provide for [them], eventually making them more productive members of the labor force.”

The passage of the RH bill by the 16th Congress went through numerous committee hearings, heated debates between legislators, protest actions in the streets and heated word war between the pro and anti RH advocates.

Some provisions 'unconstitutional'

But after more than a decade of the battle for its passage in Congress, the RH law’s implementation also experienced a setback after oppositors of the RH law, mostly religious groups and pro-life advocates, questioned its constitutionality before the Supreme Court (SC).

Voting 10-5, the SC issued on Mar. 19, 2013 a 120-day status quo ante (SQA) order against the law's implementation.

The high court extended indefinitely the SQA in July 2013, with a vote of 8-7.

A year later, the RH law was finally given a go by the High Tribunal but many of its provisions, including the implementing rules, were declared unconstitutional.

The SC, while preserving the core of the law, which requires the state to deliver the full range of family planning services to the public, limited the scope of its coverage.

It struck down a provision in Section 7, which states the power of the government to oblige private hospitals and those owned by religious groups to refer patients to other facilities that offer reproductive health services.

Also declared unconstitutional was the provision in the same section that allows minors to avail of family planning services without parental consent if they have already given birth or suffered a miscarriage.

The SC, however, upheld the essence of the law embodied in Section 7, which requires the state to provide family planning services, including artificial contraceptives.

TRO, budget cut

The legal battle for RH Law’s implementation continues, as the SC in June 2014 issues a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Department of Health from distributing and selling contraceptive implants which can prevent pregnancies up to three years.

The TRO has yet to be lifted by the SC up to date.

The TRO prompted the Congress to cut the DOH’s budget for the RH law’s implementation in 2016 by nearly P1 billion.

“Strengthening the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law” is included in Duterte administration’s 10-point agenda revealed by the president’s economic team recently. —ALG, GMA News