Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Most of Country's Controversial Reproductive Health Act

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Philippine Supreme Court yesterday upheld the constitutionality of most of the Philippines' Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 and the implementing rules under it.  (Full text of the Act and the Court's press briefing are available at the Philippine Official Gazette website, as is the full text of the Implementing Regulations.) The Act was challenged by the Catholic Church and faith-based groups in 14 lawsuits that were consolidated for Supreme Court review. Under the Act, the government guarantees universal access to reproductive health care services  and relevant patient information. The Court however struck down eight provisions of the Act and Rules. These provisions that were held unconstitutional:
  • require private and religious hospitals to refer patients in non-emergency situations to another convenient health facility and allow minors who have suffered a miscarriage access to family planning methods without written parental consent;
  • punish health care providers who do not disseminate information on reproductive health services, regardless of the provider's religious beliefs;
  • allow a married person in non-emergency situations to undergo reproductive health procedures without consent of the person's spouse;
  • punish providers who fail or refuse to refer a patient in a non-emergency situation to another conveniently located provider, even if the referral violates the provider's religious beliefs;
  • punish public officers, regardless of their religious beliefs, who refuse to support reproductive health programs or who hinder implementation of programs;
  • require (even for conscientious objectors) rendering of pro bono reproductive health service to secure PhilHealth accreditation;
  • define abortifacients as drugs or devices that "primarily" have certain effects;
  • penalize a health service provider who requires parental consent from a minor in non-emergency situations.
Parties have 15 days to seek rarely-granted reconsideration by the Supreme Court. After the decision was handed down, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines issued a generally conciliatory statement (full text).