It has been one year and 10 months since the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (this “TRO”) that prohibits the Department of Health (the “DOH”) and the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) from (i) granting any and all pending applications for registration and/or recertification for reproductive products and supplies including contraceptive drugs and devices, and (ii) procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising, and promoting the hormonal contractive Implanon and Implanon NXT. This in turn will effectively limit birth control options to condoms, surgical procedures, and abstinence once the supply of approved contraceptives drugs and devices ingested or implanted presently available in the market is exhausted without this TRO being lifted.
Hence, it is arguable that this TRO not only poses a significant stumbling block in the implementation of the celebrated Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10354) (the “RH Law”), but in fact renders the RH Law inutile.
Regrettably, the reach of this TRO extends beyond the RH Law. By preventing (i) new contraceptive drugs from being registered and (ii) registered contraceptive drugs available in the market from being recertified, this TRO touches on hormonal contraceptives used by women for various purposes other than family planning and those contemplated under the RH Law.
Hormonal contraceptives, popularly called birth control pills, are used by (and even prescribed to) women to address health and beauty issues, such as:
1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (“PCOS”) – Becoming exceedingly common in Filipino women, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that causes heavy and/or irregular menstrual periods, difficulty in getting pregnant, weight gain, and certain unsightly physical manifestations such as acne and extra facial and body hair, among other health concerns. Small cysts may also grow in the ovaries of those with PCOS. Treatment for PCOS includes a lifestyle change complemented by birth control pills to regulate one’s menstrual period and correct hormonal levels.
2. Amenorrhea (lack of menstrual period) – There are various causes for a woman’s menstrual period to stop for certain periods of time, such as low body weight, stress, and hormonal imbalance. In case of the latter, birth control pills help jumpstart a woman’s menstrual period, failing which, said woman’s doctor is alerted that there may be reasons other than hormonal imbalance for such amenorrhea.
3. Acne – For severe acne that topical anti-acne medications readily available over-the-counter cannot solve, birth control pills may be prescribed to address underlying hormonal issues that manifest through skin flare ups.
4. Premenstrual Syndrome and Menstrual Cramps – Migraines, bloating, and cramps are among the common problems associated with a woman’s menstrual period, along with mood swings and insatiable appetite. Birth control pills may mitigate the drop in estrogen during menstruation and keep hormonal spikes at bay.
5. Endometriosis – In this disorder, endometrial tissue, normally found inside a woman’s uterus, grows outside the uterus, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining. This causes pelvic pain, particularly during a woman’s menstrual period. To address this, birth control pills are prescribed to temporarily stop menstrual periods during treatment.
The far-reaching effects of this TRO may not have been fully appreciated when the same had been issued pending judicial determination of whether there have been violations of the constitutional right to due process in respect of certifications and recertifications issued by the FDA for contraceptive drugs and implants. This TRO not only limits the viable choices of contraceptives that may be available to women in due time, but also appears to unduly diminish women’s access to adequate and comprehensive health services guaranteed under the Magna Carta for Women.
It is saddening that the clamor to lift this TRO does not adequately voice out the fact that hormonal contraceptives gravely limited by this TRO will not only affect fertility and family planning concerns of women, but also restrict solutions to various health and beauty issues women bravely face.
If you want your voice to be heard, sign the petition to lift the TRO affecting family planning.