In a major blow to women’s human rights, the Philippine Supreme Court has rejected a plea to strike down a devastating contraception ban in Manila City. The case was filed by twenty Manila citizens whose lives have been irreparably harmed by the ideological ban, which was introduced almost nine years ago by former Mayor José “Lito” Atienza and remains in force. The plaintiffs firmly believe that the ban is unconstitutional and are seeking to have it revoked immediately.
Contraception Ban Wreaks Havoc on Manila City’s Poor
Because of the contraception ban, public health centers in Manila City are effectively prohibited from providing condoms, birth control pills, or other forms of “artificial” contraceptives and related information. The ban claims to favor the promotion of “natural” family planning in order to advance “morals.” But its consequences have been grim, especially for poor families. The policy has exposed countless women to unintended pregnancies, compromising their health and driving their families deeper into poverty.
The Philippine Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Ideology
The case, Lourdes Osil et al. v. Mayor of Manila, was originally filed in the Philippine Court of Appeals in January 2008 and was dismissed four months later. When a request to reconsider was denied, the petitioners filed an appeal before the Supreme Court in September 2008. Before the end of the year, the Supreme Court surprisingly dismissed the appeal on a technical ground—that only nineteen of the twenty petitioners signed a pro-forma document certifying that the case was brought to the Supreme Court in good faith. The Court’s refusal to consider the case on its merits is very troubling. “This decision tramples on women’s fundamental rights in favor of the right of religious zealots to impose their ‘values’ on others,” said Elizabeth Pangalangan, the attorney for the plaintiffs.The petitioners have asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.
Contraception Ban Violates Women’s Human Rights
Activists from around the world who have followed this case closely are shaken and alarmed. “This is a very disappointing decision,” said Melissa Upreti, Senior Regional Manager and Legal Adviser for Asia at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Supreme’s Court’s refusal to examine the claims made by the petitioners in this case amounts to a denial of justice.”