Reproductive health advocates on Wednesday rued the continued implementation of the Supreme Court's stay order on the use of contraceptives in the government's family planning program, saying it may lead to a rise in unwanted pregnancies and even abortions.
At a media forum, former Presidential Assistant for Social Development Ben De Leon said he feared an increase in the number of women at risk of unintended pregnancy getting abortions if the temporary restraining order is not lifted.
Researchers from the US-based Guttmacher Institute estimate nearly 610,000 Filipino women underwent abortion in 2012. These women cited inability to afford raising a child as a common reason for going through the illegal procedure.
"The bottomline really is we (want to) prevent abortion. In other words, if we use contraceptives, then you prevent abortion. Denying access to women is very unfair, very unjust and I can say cruel to our women who really want to practice family planning," De Leon said.
He added the SC must not put up any obstacle to the right of couples, especially women, to decide when to start or expand a family.
"It is about the right to choose when and how big or small a family a couple wants to have. It is about the right to choose whether to use natural or artificial family planning methods," De Leon said.
"With this TRO to stock out contraceptives in two years' time, the increase in high risk teen pregnancies and pregnancies in general is unimaginable," added Rom Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
Government data show 1.8 million Filipinos are added to the country's population each year.
In August, the SC Second Division found it necessary to keep the TRO which was secured by pro-life group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines (ALFI) in June last year.
According to the decision, the Court could not lift the TRO because the Food and Drug Administration has yet to conduct a hearing on the concerns of ALFI that contraceptive implants, particularly the brands Implanon and Implanon NXT, have abortifacient features.
The Office of the Solicitor General earlier urged the high court to lift the TRO, saying the registration and re-certification of contraceptive implants is under the FDA regulatory and administrative power and that the decision would have "dire consequences" for the public.
"The TRO is a major stumbling block for the government to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in the country, decrease poverty, and uplift the lives of Filipinos by providing information and access on the full range of modern family planning methods," it added.
The OSG also asked the SC to elevate the case to the 15-member en banc. —KG, GMA News