Washington International Law Journal


Restrictive Philippine laws and a lack of public funding have limited Filipinos’ access to modern contraception, resulting in high maternal mortality rates, high birth rates, unmet needs for family planning, and health disparities between the lowest-income and wealthier women. Following the 1991 decentralization reforms, Local Government Units plan, administer, and fund most Philippine health services. In the context of reproductive healthcare, decentralization has led to inequality, inadequate financing, successful opposition to contraception by the Catholic Church, and a lack of clear national standards. After a fourteen-year legislative struggle, on December 21, 2012, President Aquino signed “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012” (“RH Act”). This legislation confirmed Filipinos’ right to contraception and reproductive healthcare and cited the 1987 Philippine Constitution as the source of those rights. On January 2, 2013, a married couple directly petitioned the Supreme Court of the Philippines, asking the Court to declare the RH Act unconstitutional. As a result, the Supreme Court enjoined the law and heard oral arguments in July and August 2013. While the RH Act is likely constitutional, the Philippine Congress did not appropriate the dedicated funding necessary to implement the law’s provisions. With inadequate financing, the RH Act will not increase access to contraception and the Philippines will fail to meet its constitutional obligations and international commitments. Unless the Philippines strengthens the implementing rules and appropriates funds, the lowest-income Filipino women will continue to experience reproductive oppression.

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