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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.”

― Archibald MacLeish

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Supreme Court's Unanimous Ruling: RH Law Legal!

From NYT
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled that a family planning law opposed by the Roman Catholic Church is constitutional, clearing the way for its implementation as a means to provide reproductive health care services primarily to the country's poor.

Supporters of the law cheered as court spokesman Theodore Te made the announcement Tuesday in northern Baguio city where the magistrates issued the ruling.

President Benigno Aquino III signed the law in December 2012 but the court imposed a temporary restraining order while it studied petitions questioning its constitutionality.

Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church's core values and say it promotes promiscuity and destroys life. The government says it helps the poor manage the number of children they have and provides for maternal health care.

From Inquirer:
MANILA, Philippines – Apparently more Filipinos agree that the much vilified Reproductive Health law should be deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, if the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey is to be believed.
The results of the survey obtained by Monday said at least 77 percent of Filipinos surveyed agreed that the “RH law follows what the Constitution stands for, so it is only proper for the Supreme Court  to allow it.”
Those surveyed were responding to the question in Filipino: “How well do you agree or disagree to the statement ‘The RH law follows the Constitution, so it is only right that the Supreme Court favor it’?” according to a PowerPoint Presentation of the survey obtained by
(“Gaano po kayo sumasang-ayon o hindi sumasang-ayon sa statement o pangungusap na ito ‘Sumusunod ang RH Law sa mga dapat pinapanindigan ng Konstitusyon, kaya dapat lamang paboran ito ng Supreme Court?”)
At least 14 percent remain undecided, while only 9 percent disagree to the statement, the survey said.
Meanwhile, the survey also said at least 72 percent of adults surveyed favor the RH law.
The survey was conducted from March 27 to 30 with a sample size of 1,200 adults spread across the country. It also has a margin error of three percent.
The SWS results were released a day before the Supreme Court is expected to decide on the law that has been stalled since it was approved in Congress.
The measure was signed in December 2012 by President Benigno Aquino III but the high court issued a status quo ante on the law after petitions were filed against it over its constitutionality.
The controversial law mandates the government to provide access to family planning methods such as contraception, a sensitive topic in the predominantly Catholic country. The Roman Catholic Church has opposed the measure on the grounds of morality.

RH advocates staged vigils and mass actions in Baguio City as they await the high court’s ruling during its summer sessions there.
The United Nations Population Fund has for the first time declared access to contraception as a “universal human right,” CBS reports. 

From the UNFPA’s “State of the World Population 2012”:

All countries should take steps to meet the family-planning needs of their populations as soon as possible and should, in all cases by the year 2015, seek to provide universal access to a full range of safe and reliable family-planning methods and to related reproductive health services which are not against the law. The aim should be to assist couples and individuals to achieve their reproductive goals and give them the full opportunity to exercise the right to have children by choice.

Although the report has no legal effect, it “effectively declares” that placing barriers to family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights. UNFPA executive director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said, “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labour-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

The U.N. report concluded that effective family planning initiatives could save $5.7 billion worldwide. From Salon

In the Philippines, a country of 96 million people, access to birth control is mostly limited to those with the means to buy it. A "reproductive health law" seeks to change that: It calls for public education about contraceptives and government subsidies to make them available to everyone.

The church and like-minded opponents have stalled the legislation for 14 years. Following Vatican dictates, Philippine bishops oppose any "artificial" measures to prevent pregnancy, sanctioning only natural means such as periodic abstention from sex.

It's one example of how religious and political forces affect women's control over childbearing and, as a result, the trajectory of population growth in the developing world.

The church's stance puts it at odds with many of its followers in the Philippines. Eight out of 10 Filipinos are Catholic. Even for weekday Mass, popular churches draw huge crowds that tie up Manila traffic.

Polls show, however, that 70% of the population supports the reproductive health bill, which also calls for sex education in schools.

Birth control is a source of political dispute in many societies, including the United States. In the Philippines, however, the battle has been particularly acrimonious because of the church's wide reach and influence. From The L.A. Times

Position Of The World Health Organization (WHO):

"Family planning allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility. A woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy."World Health Organization

Key facts
An estimated 200 million couples in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception.
Some family planning methods help prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Family planning reduces the need for unsafe abortion.
Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.
Family planning allows people to attain their desired number of children and determine the spacing of pregnancies. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of infertility (this fact sheet focuses on contraception).

Quality family planning services bring a wide range of benefits to women, their families and society.

A woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being. Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women at increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing. This reduces maternal mortality.

Family planning can prevent closely spaced and ill-timed pregnancies and births, which contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. Infants of mothers who die as a result of giving birth also have a greater risk of death and poor health.

Family planning reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, resulting in fewer infected babies and orphans. In addition, male and female condoms provide dual protection against unintended pregnancies and against STIs including HIV.

By reducing rates of unintended pregnancies, family planning reduces the need for unsafe abortion, which accounts for 13% of global maternal mortality.

Family planning enables people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.

Pregnant adolescents are more likely to have preterm or low birth-weight babies. Babies born to adolescents have higher rates of neonatal mortality. Many adolescent girls who become pregnant have to leave school. This has long-term implications for them as individuals, their families and communities.
Slowing population growth

Family planning is key to slowing unsustainable population growth and the resulting negative impacts on the economy, environment, and national and regional development efforts.