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"Truly children are a gift from the Lord;
the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps 127:3).

Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the
Reproductive Health Law

Our dear brother priests, Catholic physicians and health care workers, government
officials and employees, educators and fellow Church workers:

While we would have wanted the Supreme Court to nullify the RH Law (Republic
Act No. 10354), we must now contend with the fact that it has ruled rather to strike
down important provisions of the law in deciding Imbong v. Ochoa, G.R. 204819
(April 8, 2014) and companion cases.

It is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our
Catholics who, as health care workers (physicians, nurses, midwives, medical aides,
medical technologists, etc.), are employed in health facilities, whether public or
private, so that they may know what their rights are under the law as passed upon
by the High Court. The same duty is owed to our Catholic government officials and
employees who, in the discharge of their public duties, may be asked to enforce the
RH Law. The Supreme Court majority opinion alone is 104 pages long and many
may not have the patience nor the skill to make their way through the legal
argumentation involved.

As teachers of the faith and morality, assisted by our legal experts, we are
presenting an outline of the salient points in the Supreme Court decision which we
think may be helpful for our pastoral ministry and discernment:

1. The Supreme Court points out that the whole idea of contraception (as the
means to control population growth) runs through the RH Law. It is in fact the
governing and overarching principle of the RH Law. Other provisions such as
skilled birth attendance, maternal care including pre- and post-natal services,
prevention and management of sexually-related diseases and sicknesses are already
provided for in the Magna Carta for Women. In rendering its decision in the Imbong
case, the Court affirms the principles of “no-abortion” and “no-coercion” in the
adoption of any family planning method.

2. The right to life is grounded on natural law and is inherent in a person, and
therefore not a creation of, or dependent upon a particular law, custom or belief.
The right to life precedes and transcends any authority or the laws of men.

3. Abortifacients are prohibited by the RH Law. An abortifacient is any drug or
device that:
a. induces abortion; or
b. induces the destruction of a fetus inside the mother's womb; or
c. prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and to be implanted in
the mother's womb.

In this regard, it is important to point out that the Supreme Court has invalidated
two related provisions in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Law for
inserting the modifier 'primarily' in the definitions of “abortifacient” and
“contraceptive”. The Court notes that the word “primarily” (which is not found in
the RH Law itself) would HAVE INTRODUCED THE SURREPTITIOUS INTRODUCTION OF
DRUGS AND DEVICES THAT, THOUGH PRIMARILY NOT ABORTIFACIENT, WERE ALSO
ABORTIFACIENT IN USE AND IN EFFECT. The Court clarifies that, consistent with the
no-abortion spirit of the RH Law, even contraceptives that have no such primary
intention, but have the secondary effect of destroying the fetus or

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preventing nidation (attaching of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall), should be
considered as abortifacients and are, therefore, banned.

4. No contraceptive that harms or destroys the life of the unborn from conception
or fertilization, either as a primary or secondary effect, can be allowed under the
law, even if it be advertised, categorized, distributed and announced as a
contraceptive. The determining factor therefore is whether or not the supposed
contraceptive also prevents nidation, or the attaching of the fertilized egg to the
uterine wall, or destroys the zygote, embryo, blastocyst or fetus. If it does, then it
cannot be allowed under the law.

5. In the distribution by the Department of Health of contraceptive drugs and
devices, the provisions of an existing law, R.A. 4729, must be complied with. Said
law makes it unlawful for any person, partnership or corporation to sell, dispense
or otherwise distribute, whether for or without consideration, any contraceptive
drug or device, unless such sale, dispensation or distribution is by a duly licensed
drug store or pharmaceutical company and with the prescription of a qualified
medical practitioner.

TO OUR KNOWLEDGE, NO SINGLE CONTRACEPTIVE HAS YET BEEN SUBMITTED
TO THE FDA PURSUANT TO THE RH LAW.

6. The Court expresses itself very strongly on the following point: "At this point,
the Court is of the strong view that Congress cannot legislate that hormonal
contraceptives and intra-uterine devices are safe and non-abortifacient. The first
sentence of Section 9 that ordains their inclusion by the National Drug Formulary
in the Essential Drug List (EDI), by using the mandatory 'shall' is to be construed
as operative only after they have been tested, evaluated and approved by the Food
and Drugs Administration (FDA). The FDA, not Congress, has the expertise to
determine whether a particular hormonal contraceptive or intrauterine device is safe
and non-abortifacient." We urge our Catholic doctors, for example, the Association of
Doctors for Life, to demand from the FDA the testing and evaluation of all
contraceptive drugs and devices, including those that are already being presently
sold and made available to the public, as to whether they are safe, legal, and non-
abortifacient.

7. When a health care worker who objects, on religious or moral grounds, to
contraceptives is compelled by the law to refer the patient seeking information on
modern reproductive health products and services to another who may be willing to
supply such information or services, this obligation to refer already burdens the
objector to do something that his conscience forbids him to do. The premise of this
holding is the inviolability of the human conscience.

Put more directly, when a health-care worker, whether practising on his own or as
part of a public or private healthcare facility, objects, on the basis of conscience, to
artificial contraception, such a health-worker is NOT OBLIGED AND MAY
REFUSE to refer a patient to anyone else (health-care worker or facility) from where
the contraceptives may be obtained.

The Supreme Court observes that "though it has been said that the act of referral is
an opt-out clause, it is, however, a false compromise because it makes pro-life
health providers complicit in the performance of an act that they find morally
repugnant or offensive."

8. The same rule therefore applies to non-maternity specialty hospitals and
hospitals owned and operated by a religious groups and health care service
providers. While, originally, Section 24 compelled such institutions, under pain of
penalty, to refer patients to facilities or institutions that can render contraceptive
services, the Court struck down this COMPULSORY REFERRAL as
UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
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9. Section 5.24 of the RH - IRR reads: "Provided, that skilled health professionals
such as provincial city or municipal health officers, chiefs of hospitals, head nurses,
supervising midwives, among others who by virtue of their office are specifically
charged with the duty to implement the provisions of the RPRH Act and these rules
cannot be considered as conscientious objectors."

THE COURT RULES THAT THIS SECTION OF THE IRR IS DISCRIMINATORY AND
IN VIOLATION OF THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the Constitution. What
this means therefore is that the right to conscientious objection can be claimed and
exercised even by health-care workers in the employ of the government. Obviously,
Catholics should not, on moral grounds, seek employment in the very government
agencies that promote artificial contraception. But if circumstances
compelled them to be employed in such agencies, or if they were already employees
at the time the agencies adopted a pro-RH policy, said Catholics should be
aware that they cannot be forced to promote, distribute or dispense artificial
contraceptives against their religious or moral conviction.

10. The accommodation granted the conscientious objector, however, does not
extend to emergency cases, as when the mother's life is in danger. When a patient,
for example, is rushed to the emergency room who has, with the help of a
backstreet abortionist, commenced the abortion procedure that is botched,
although the fetus has already been destroyed, with the result that she is bleeding
profusely, the health-care providers cannot refuse intervention or treatment on the
ground of conscientious objection but must take all steps necessary to save the life
of the mother. This exception is based on natural law, which calls for the
preservation of human life.

11. FAITHFUL TO THE STATE POLICY TO PROTECT THE FAMILY, the Court has
ruled that when a married person seeks an irreversible form of contraception
(vasectomy and tubal ligation provide the most ready examples), BOTH SPOUSES
must give their consent, and when the spouses disagree, the procedure may not be
performed. This is in marked contrast to the original provision of the law that
would have allowed the choice of the person who was to undergo the procedure to
make the final call. But this, the Supreme Court rightly rules, would have directly
eroded family cohesion that the Constitution obligates the State to protect and to
promote.

12. The Court also emphatically holds that EVEN IF THE MINOR IS ALREADY A
PARENT OR HAS HAD A MISCARRIAGE, she will still need the consent of her
parents in order to receive surgical or non-surgical family planning services. The
Court reasons that parental authority over the minor is not lost by the incidence of
a miscarriage or premature parenthood.

"It is precisely in such situations when a minor parent needs the comfort, care, advice
and guidance of her own parents. The State cannot replace her natural mother and
father when it comes to providing her needs and comfort. To say that their consent is
no longer relevant is clearly anti-family. It does not promote unity in the family. It is
an affront to the constitutional mandate to protect and to strengthen the family as an
inviolable social institution."

By way of an exception, the Court upholds the right of the minor to receive
information about family planning services, and to undergo emergency surgical
procedures in life-threatening situations.

13. The Court recognizes the right of private educational institutions
to be excluded from the mandatory reproductive health program under Section 14,
on the ground of the recognition of the academic freedom of private educational
institutions especially with respect to religious instruction. Our Catholic schools
then are not obliged to propagate the reproductive health curriculum of the
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government, although, consistent with church teaching, they must prepare our
youngsters to be responsible parents.

14. Our Catholic brethren employed in the different local government units and
performing non-medical functions should also be informed that they have the right
not to support or participate in the implementation of reproductive health program,
based on religious or ethical ground. The Supreme Court has voided the provision
in the RH Law that compels them to implement the Law regardless of their religious
or ethical beliefs.

15. Significantly, the Court says: "Be that as it may, it bears reiterating that the RH
Law is a mere compilation and enhancement of the prior existing contraceptive and
reproductive health laws, but with coercive measures xxx All the same, the principle
of 'no abortion' and 'non-coercion' in the adoption of any family planning method
should be maintained."

The salutary measures taken by the Supreme Court to strike down what it found to
be the constitutionally infirm provisions of this dangerous law will be for naught
unless we pass on this necessary information to our Catholic brethren who are
impacted by the law.

It is therefore strongly suggested that each diocese organize seminars and symposia
at which our Catholics employed or exercising their professions in hospitals, clinics
and similar facilities, public or private, and those working in local government units
whose functions may involve the implementation and promotion of the RH Law, are
in attendance and where they may receive proper instruction on this important
decision of the Supreme Court and their rights following from the said ruling.

It is good to keep in mind that the RH Law also mandates the government to
promote and support Natural Family Planning, particularly if this is demanded by
local communities.

The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life as well at the CBCP Legal Office will
be available to give formation seminars in the various ecclesiastical
circumscriptions upon the invitation of the bishops. May Mary Mother of Life guide
our every step in protecting the dignity of human life and protecting every human
life from harm!

"Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps 127:3).


For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, July 7, 2014


Sincerely yours,




+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP