LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PIA) – Coinciding with this year's observance of the National Women’s Month this year, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) in Bicol region seeks to promote women’s welfare by calling for the lifting of the "temporary restraining order" (TRO) on the implementation of reproductive health measures, specifically the distribution of contraceptives.

Restriction

In June of 2015, the Supreme Court (SC) issued the TRO that forbids the government from “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing and administering, advertising and promoting” contraceptive implants.  The TRO is in effect until the high court’s final disposition of an appeal to permanently ban the product for its alleged “abortifacient” side effects.

The petition that resulted in the said TRO was filed by Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI) earlier in 2015. Notably, the TRO deters the Department of Health (DOH) from acquiring and distributing contraceptive products Implanon and Implanon NXT to the public.

Implanon and Implanon NXT are subdermal contraceptives or implants (thin rods inserted under the skin) that prevents pregnancy to up to three years. These contraceptive implants were approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), but the TRO was still issued upon the petitioner’s argument that the implants have “abortifacient character.”

However, since the issuance of the TRO, health and women’s welfare groups have reportedly pleaded with the high court to lift the restriction. They argued that it is against the spirit of the Responsible Parenting and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law of 2012.

In 2016, the DOH asked the SC to lift the TRO but was rejected.

POPCOM’s stand

In a statement released by POPCOM-Bicol earlier this month, the commission has called for the lifting of the TRO on the Implanon and Implanon NXT implants by drawing public support and spearheading a signature campaign on the matter.

The statement also said that the commission was collecting at least one million signatures this March to reinforce their petition in lifting the TRO. POPCOM-Bicol added that, as early as the beginning of March, they had already collected 4,564 signatures in the region alone.

“The impending absence of contraceptives, especially the cheaper ones, will affect maternal mortality in the country. When this happen, it will be a public health emergency,” said POPCOM Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez.

Timing the their drive on the 2017 National Women’s Month, which is centered on the theme “We Make Change Work for Women”, POPCOM stated that this call for the lifting of the TRO is a timely action for women’s empowerment and health welfare, as reinforced by the Magna Carta for Women.

POPCOM’s point refers specifically to the Magna Carta’s provision that guarantees women’s access to education and services, including reproductive health services.The commission further claimed that the TRO has caused delays in the full implementation of the RPRH law, something that reportedly poses adverse effects to the country’s population program.

POPCOM figures reveal more than 13.4 million Filipino women were already affected by the TRO, including 6.1 million who use contraceptives and 7.3 million who need family-planning measures.

“This Women’s Month, no gifts is sweeter for Filipinos, especially for the women who have long believed and fought for the law, than the resolution to lift the TRO on family planning,” Dr. Perez stressed. (EAD/JBE/PIA-5)