ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: July 08, 2014 10:47 PM GMT
An anti-Reproductive Health Law protester carries a placard during a protest rally in Manila (File photo by Rene Sandajan).
Philippine health care workers may abstain from providing artificial contraception despite a new law that legalized its use, the country's Catholic bishops said in a statement.
The bishops said that a health care worker who objects to providing birth control based on moral or religious grounds is not liable under the recently legalized RH Law.
"When a health care worker, whether practicing on his own or as part of a public or private health care facility, objects on the basis of conscience to artificial contraception, such a health worker is not obliged and may refuse to refer a patient to anyone else from where the contraceptives may be obtained," the bishops said in a statement released today.
The bishops said they issued this "pastoral guide" for health care workers because "it is our pastoral duty to pass the necessary information and instruction to our Catholics … so that they may know what their rights are under the law."
The country's Supreme Court on July 1 affirmed its earlier ruling which upheld the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law.
But in an earlier ruling on April 8, while upholding the law's legality, the Court struck out a section that gave the government power to oblige private hospitals and those owned by religious groups to refer patients to other facilities that offer reproductive health services. Another provision that allows minors access to family planning services without parental consent in limited cases also was declared unconstitutional.
"Catholics should be aware that they cannot be forced to promote, distribute or dispense artificial contraceptives against their religious or moral conviction," the statement said.
The bishops urged dioceses to educate Catholic health care workers by organizing seminars.
The law, signed by President Benigno Aquino in December 2012, provides improved public access to natural and artificial family planning options, better maternal care and youth education.
Catholic bishops opposed the law for legalizing the use of artificial contraceptives.