Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law

Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Philippines

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. . .
Full Text

Supreme Court of the Philippines

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Opinions supporting freedom of conscience


Supreme Court of the Philippines

In  April, 2014, the Protection of Conscience Project’s critique of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Act) was confirmed by a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. 

With respect to the issue of freedom of conscience among health care workers and institutions, of the fifteen Supreme Court judges:

  • 11 held that the mandatory referral provision in the law was an unconstitutional violation of freedom of conscience;
  •  10 of the 11 also ruled that forcing an objecting health care worker to provide “complete and correct information” about contraception was a violation of freedom of conscience
    • The eleventh judge (Del  Castillo, J.) held that a requirement to provide complete and correct information was not unconstitutional, as long as it was not used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.
Lucas P. Bersamin
Antonio T. Carpio
Jose Catral Mendoza
Diosdado M. Peralta
Jose Portugal Perez
Presbitero J. Velasco
Martin S. Villarama Jr.
Concurring opinions
Roberto A. Abad
Arturo D. Brion
Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro
Concurring, dissenting in part
Mariano C.  Del Castillo (dissenting on providing information)
Estala M. Perlas-Bernabe
Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen
Bienvenido L. Reyes
Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno

Position of the Petitioners [P.60]
2. On Religious Accommodation and The Duty to Refer  [P.61]

Petitioners Imbong and Luat note that while the RH Law attempts to address religious sentiments by making provisions for a conscientious objector, the constitutional guarantee is nonetheless violated because the law also imposes upon the conscientious objector the duty to refer the patient seeking reproductive health services to another medical practitioner who would be able to provide for the patient’s needs. For the petitioners, this amounts to requiring the conscientious objector to cooperate with the very thing he refuses to do without violating his/her religious beliefs.190 . . . [Full text]

Philippines government demands referral by objecting physicians even if not “right”

In the closing hearings into the controversial Reproductive Health Law, judges of the Philippines Supreme Court questioned a provision in the law that makes it a crime to provide “incorrect information” about contraceptives.  When Senior State Solicitor Florin Hilbay explained that the Philippines Food and Drug Administration will determine what is “correct,” a judge pointed out that this would mean that no dissent from that would be allowed.  Another judge raised the possibility  of the imprisonment of physicians who disagree with the FDA about the safety of a drug.

Hilbay also claimed that objecting physicians have a “professional obligation” to facilitate the provision of the services to which they object by referral, asserting that refusal to refer makes a patient a “victim.” He insisted on this even though he admitted that referral might not be “right.” The court gave lawyers for both sides 60 days to submit memoranda concerning their arguments. [Manila Standard] [Philippine Daily Inquirer] []

Philippines Supreme Court hearings on the Reproductive Health Law

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has resumed a hearing into the constitutionality of the controversial Reproductive Health law (the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012) .  The operation of the law was suspended by the Court pending the outcome of litigation against it.  Luisito Liban, a lawyer representing some of those opposed to the bill, told the court that his clients were “speaking on behalf of true Catholics” who do not use contraceptives.   He also criticized the section of the law that requires objecting physicians to refer patients for morally contested services. [GMA (Philippines); ABS-CBN News (Philippines)]