RA 10354 finally became implementable when the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines declared on April 8, 2014 that “the RH law is not unconstitutional.” (SC spokesman Theodore Te)
In its decision, the High Court upheld the core provisions of the RPRH Law. However, the following provisions were struck down in full or partially:
- Section 7, only insofar as it: (a) requires private health facilities, non-maternity specialty hospitals, and hospitals owned by religious groups to refer patients not in an emergency or life-threatening situation to another health facility which is conveniently accessible (b) provides access to FP and RH services to minors who have been pregnant or had a miscarriage without a parental consent;
- Section 23-A-1, which punishes RH providers, regardless of their religious belief, who fail or refuse to disseminate information regarding RH services and programs;
- Section 23-A-2-i, which allows a married individual not in a life-threatening case to access RH procedures without the consent of the spouse;
- Section 23-A-3, insofar as it punishes an RH provider who fails to refer any nonlife-threatening case to another RH provider;
- Section 23-B, insofar as it punishes any public officer who refuses to support RH programs;
- Section 17, which mandates a 40-hour pro bono service by private and nongovernment RH service providers, including gynecologists and obstetricians, as a prerequisite for PhilHealth accreditation;
- Section 3.01-A and J of the RH Law IRR, which defines abortifacients as “primarily” inducing abortion instead of simply inducing abortion; and
- Section 23-A-2-ii, which prohibits RH service providers from refusing to perform legal and medically-safe reproductive health procedures on minors in non-life-threatening situations without parental consent
(G.R. No. 204819)
Who are conscientious objectors?
Conscientious objectors refer to practicing skilled health professional (private or public) which may include doctors, nurses or midwives and other public health workers, who refuse to provide legal and medically safe reproductive health care within the scope of their professional competence, on the grounds that doing so is against their ethical or religious convictions. (RA 10354 Rule 3, Sec.3.01)
What are the requirements to become conscientious objectors?
Practicing skilled health professionals (both private and public) must be registered as conscientious objectors at the DOH.
Private skilled health professionals shall post a notice at the entrance of the clinic or place of practice, enumerating the reproductive health services they refuse to provide.
Public skilled health professionals who are conscientious objectors shall explain to the client the limited range of services they can provide. (RA 10354 Rule 5, Section 5.23-24)
To what extent can conscientious objectors withhold their services?
- may refuse to disseminate information on RH programs and services but is liable for providing false or misleading information;
- may refuse to provide RH services and refuse to refer a patient to the appropriate RH provider but not in emergency, life threatening or serious cases. (RA 10354 Rule 16, Section 16.01)
Can minors access FP services?
Minors are not allowed access to modern methods of family planning without written consent from a parent or a legal guardian.
Provision of FP information and counselling to minors does not require consent from a parent or a legal guardian.
Can public officials be conscientious objectors?
Public officials (both elected and appointed) can also be conscientious objectors and may refuse to support the implementation of RH programs.
However, they are liable if they personally or through a subordinate:
- prohibit or restrict the delivery of legal RH services, including family planning;
- force, coerce or induce any person to use such services; or
- refuse to allocate, approve or release any budget for RH services.
Can private hospitals refuse to provide RH services?
Hospitals owned and operated by a religious group, or is classified as a non-maternity specialty hospital may refuse to provide RH services.
Additionally, said exempted health facilities cannot be required to refer patients except in emergency or life-threatening situations.
What are the guidelines for employers to provide FP services in the workplace?
Article 134 of the Labor Code of the Philippines (LCP) states that establishments which are required by law to maintain a clinic shall provide free FP services to their employees which shall include, but not be limited to, the application or use of contraceptive pills and intrauterine devices.
The RPRH Law reiterates this requirement to establishments with more than 200 employees. Establishments with less than 200 employees are encouraged to provide FP services to their workers.
The Law also mandates DOH to coordinate with the Department of Labor and Employment to review, develop, and/or prescribe incentive bonus schemes for establishments or enterprises to make family planning services available to female workers. (RA 10354 IRR Rule 5, Section 5.07)