Legislating Condoms and Other Contraceptives: A Philippine Constitutional Law Perspective

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The 1987 Philippine Constitution entrenches interesting provisions that reflect Filipino values. For example, it mandates that the State must protect the life of the unborn child and protect the family as the basic social institution. These two commands are rooted in the country’s deep Catholic tradition and its family-oriented culture.

In 2012, the Philippine Congress passed a law that struck deep into these Filipino values and traditions. The law sought to legislate on reproductive health and contraceptives. The law caused uproar from the Catholic Church and raised various constitutional questions.

In 2014, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in Imbong v. Executive Secretary Ochoa where, using a rights-based approach, it answered novel constitutional issues raised by the new law – the constitutional prohibition of abortion vis-à-vis the legality of contraceptives, the right of conscientious objectors against the State interest of population control, and the right of privacy of the family vis-à-vis State-sponsored reproductive health measures. As the country seeks to curb poverty and population growth, the implications of Imbong are far-reaching and will undoubtedly be felt for decades to come.

Imbong and the controversial law that led to it are discussed below.