Thursday, April 10, 2014

EDITORIAL - Time for implementation

(The Philippine Star) 

An appeal is possible, but a unanimous decision is unlikely to be overturned, even by a Supreme Court that has been criticized for opening the gates to perpetual litigation. So Republic Act 10354, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, is expected to be finally implemented, more than a year after its enactment.

Several provisions of the measure, which took 13 years to hurdle the legislative gauntlet, were struck down, but RA 10354 remains sweeping enough in a land where Church-led groups have long resisted legislated birth control. The provisions that were invalidated could make enforcement of RA 10354 easier, with no one facing penalties or coercion for refusing to implement the law.

With the SC ruling, Congress can now appropriate funding and the national government can provide universal access to reproductive health services and supplies including contraceptives and condoms. Women will be under no state pressure to avail themselves of reproductive health services, and they are free to consider advice from their spiritual counselors on family planning.

The measure is needed mostly by women who lack the information or education and financial means to enjoy their right to reproductive health. Women with sufficient education, information and income have long enjoyed access to reproductive health services, and have enjoyed the freedom to decide whether they should plan the size of their families and space childbirths.

RH advocates also see the law as a way to bring down the number of abortions that thousands of women are forced to resort to for lack of access to contraceptive services. Many of the clandestine operations, often performed by midwives and village herbalists, prove fatal to the women.

The nation has waited long enough for reproductive health care for all. The SC ruling is a significant victory for women’s rights, and the government should lose no time in implementing this long-overdue law.

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