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EDITORIAL - Finally, full implementation?

After more than two years in legal limbo, it looks like the reproductive health law may finally be fully implemented. Republic Act 10354, enacted on Dec. 21, 2012, took effect on Jan. 17, 2013. But after their defeat in Congress, opponents of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act took their 14-year legislative battle to the Supreme Court, which granted them one of its anything-but-temporary restraining orders on June 2015.

Covered by the TRO were contraceptives that the Department of Health had procured and intended to distribute to public health centers. The high court later clarified that its TRO covered only two contraceptive implants – Implanon and Implanon NXT – which RH opponents claim are abortifacient.

The Department of Health, however, interpreted the TRO differently, noting that the Supreme Court had also stopped the Food and Drug Administration from approving applications for the registration and recertification of contraceptives. The DOH sent 51 contraceptives to the FDA for testing.

President Duterte, who had included reproductive health in his 10-point socioeconomic agenda, had to issue an executive order in January this year to sidestep the TRO, but the court order continued to deprive millions of women of access to RH services.

Now the FDA has certified all 51 contraceptives, including the implants, as safe and not abortifacient. The SC said the FDA certification automatically ends the TRO, but an appeal may be filed; the FDA must make sure the process does not crawl along for another two years.

If an appeal doesn’t work, the hypocrites in the Senate who oppose the RH law but support the restoration of the death penalty are vowing to take the fight to the budget process. The legal battle has made the country fail to meet reproductive health targets under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Contraceptives purchased by the DOH are set to expire, and replacements will be procured at the expense of taxpayers. President Duterte should use his immense popularity to make his congressional allies show their support for his socioeconomic agenda. The RH law has been stalled long enough.

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