Groups want TRO on implants lifted, ask to be intervenors in SC case

MANILA, Philippines – Reproductive health (RH) advocates on Monday, November 14, joined the health department in asking the Supreme Court (SC) to immediately lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in 2015 on family planning commodities.

At least 4 groups, joined by former health secretary Esperanza Cabral and former presidential assistant Ben de Leon, filed a 20-page motion asking the SC to recognize them as intervenors in the case. They are:

In June 2015, the High Court temporarily stopped the Department of Health (DOH) from distributing and selling implants, a contraceptive that can prevent pregnancies for up to 3 years.

The High Court also prohibited the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from "granting any and all pending application for reproductive products and supplies, including contraceptive drugs and devices."

An August decision by the SC, meanwhile, not only denied the plea of the Office of the Solicitor General to lift the TRO, but also ordered the FDA to find out whether or not certain contraceptive drugs and devices are abortifacients.

The DOH already filed a motion for reconsideration seeking a reversal of this decision. It argued that restraining the RH law could put at risk the family planning program it is implementing with local government units and civil society groups.

In filing their motion on Monday, the groups claimed that the High Court's decision would deprive millions of Filipino women access to contraceptives.

This, the groups said, could lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancy rates, teenage pregnancy rates, and even maternal deaths from preventable childbirth complications.

The TRO is the biggest challenge of the RH law to date. But even with the TRO, the use of modern family planning methods in the country reportedly increased in 2015. (READ: Most contraceptives to run out by 2018 – PopCom)

The RH law was enacted in 2012 but declared constitutional only in 2014.