Supreme Court: No TRO vs RH Law implementation, contraceptives

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Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 27) — The Supreme Court's temporary restraining order (TRO) does not put the Reproductive Health Law on hold, the Supreme Court said Thursday.

"By express terms of the Court's Decisions, there is no TRO against the implementation of the RH Law or all contraceptive implants," Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said in a statement, referring to the Reproductive Health law.

Following the Supreme Court's decision on April 8, 2014 on the partial constitutionality of the RH Law, it has never issued an injunction against the law's implementation.

"What has been issued was a TRO against two specific contraceptives regulated under the Reproductive Health (RH) Law," she said.

This covers the distribution of Implanon and Implanon NXT, two types of contraceptive implants.

Sereno's statement comes three days after President Rodrigo Duterte's second State of the Nation Address, where he chastised the high court for the TRO, which prevented the Department of Health from distributing about 400,000 implants.

Related: Consider RH, national issues before issuing TROs - Duterte to SC

Duterte said the implants were about to expire, and asked Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial to donate them to another country.

The TRO, released in June 2015, also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from granting pending applications for the registration and recertification of contraceptives.

However, the Court has since clarified that it only requires FDA to submit to the court proof of the safety of these contraceptives.

Related: SC asks for proof of contraceptive safety; FDA to comply

The chief magistrate pointed out as soon as the FDA certifies that they are not abortifacient, the TRO is lifted.

"The reason why the TRO has not been lifted yet is not with the Court but with the FDA," Sereno said.

She added that the scope of their initial decision, dated August 24, 2016, and its decision denying the motion for reconsideration, dated April 26, 2017, "clearly stated… the TRO is limited to only those two implants."

 

The RH law was enacted in December 2012, after a 14-year battle in congress due to opposition from pro-life groups in this largely Catholic country.

The case against the contraceptives was first brought to court by pro-life advocates, particularly the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc., which declared their opposition to about 77 contraceptives, arguing they were abortifacient in character.

However, advocates of family planning counter that the contraceptives are safe and even endorsed by the World Health Organization.