ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: July 15, 2013 09:51 PM GMT
RH Law supporters gather outside the Supreme Court (picture by Rene Sandajan)
The Supreme Court today extended an earlier order stopping the implementation of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
A narrow vote of 8-7 ordered the status quo ante (‘the way things were before’) order to be extended until further notice, effective immediately.
The order, which was due to expire tomorrow, was extended after the justices heard arguments from 14 petitioners, many of them Church-backed groups opposing the law that aims to slow the country's rapid population growth.
Church leaders who supported the petitions said they were confident the Supreme Court will eventually stop the law's implementation.
Reproductive health advocates expressed dismay at the ruling.
Dr Eden Divinagracia, head of the Philippine NGO Council, said she was "saddened by the vote," adding that while the court continues to deliberate on the law, 15 Filipino women die every day from pregnancy and childbirth.
She added that the Church "should not intervene with affairs of state," especially when it concerns the health of constituents.
“I believe that the RH Law is beneficial to all, whatever their religion. The RH Law does not and will never invoke anything… but what it will do is give proper information and education," she said.
The law would mandate the government to use public funds to distribute contraceptives, deploy midwives and teach sex education in elementary schools.
The country's maternal mortality rate is 221 per 100,000 live births, approximately 5,300 maternal deaths per year. The Philippines also has the highest teen birth rate among Southeast Asian countries.