Postinor

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In January 2002, news broke out that the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) de-listed Postinor (Levonorgestrel) on December 7, 2001 after Abay-pamilya Foundation, a pro-life non-government organization, claimed it as abortifacient. (Kabayan, January 10)

Immediately after de-listing the alleged abortion-inducing pill, newspaper columnists who are also reproductive health rights advocates wasted no time in informing the public through their columns the merits of Postinor and the reasons why it should not be banned in the country. The most vocal among these opinion writers were Rina Jimenez-David of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and former health chief Alberto romualdez, Jr. of Malaya.

Jimenez-David argued that Postinor, as an emergency contraceptive pill, is intended for cases of rape, incest and domestic violence, stressing its entry was allowed then by Romualdez initially for use in the hospital based DOH network for Women and Child Protection Units. (PDI, April 13)

She asserted that the manner Postinor was pulled-out of the market was decidedly undemocratic and non-transparent, and that the DOH de-listed the drug without consulting all the stakeholders, especially the women who needed it most. (PDI, April 24)

Romualdez, on the other hand, wrote in his column that uninformed and scientifically discredited opinions have succeeded in overturning the registration of a drug that can potentially save the lives of thousands of Filipino women, and that science has been replaced by extreme politics in the decision-making process of the country’s technical health guardians, the DOH. (Malaya, April 30)

As a follow-up, he wrote, “it has become clear that the only argument for banning emergency contraceptives is the opinion or belief of an extremist Catholic group that it may cause abortion.” He added that it is sad to note that medieval views continue to dominate what is supposed to be a science-based profession and it is disheartening to realize that uniformed and outdated religious beliefs continue to dominate the process of policy-making by the state. (Malaya, June 4)

Meanwhile, a women’s group called Women’s Legal Education, Advocacy and defense Foundation Inc. (Women Lead)

Asked the DOH to lift the ban on the contraceptive pill saying that it should be made available even on a limited scale to victims of rape and sexual assault who face unwanted pregnancies. (PDI, May 26)

The group claimed that not one from the affected sector such as women, women’s groups and reproductive health rights advocates were notified of the court hearings, where only representatives of the Catholic Church and their supporters were called in to join. (Manila Standard, May 26)

Another group, the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), said that by outlawing Postinor, the DOH has not merely caused Filipino women a disservice, it has violated Filipino women’s rights to reproductive health. (Manila times, May 27)

In another development, the DOH junked the appeal made by a coalition of women’s organization to reconsider the de-listing of Postinor and stressing that it cannot permit the questioned drug’s sale to the local market as the Constitution does not allow abortion. (Daily Tribune, May 29)

As the debate on Postinor heated up, Dayrit said that after weighing the rights of women and the unborn child he had to abide by the rights of the latter because while a woman has a right to protect her body, it does not give her the right to abort her child. He said that Postinor might be considered abortifacient because it puts a stop to fertilization by destroying the fertilized egg. He stressed that the constitution states that whenever the sperm and the egg meet, there is already life and so anything that will put a stop to this, after fertilization, is already considered abortion. (Malaya, May 29)

On the issue that the DOH is violating international standards by de-listing Postinor, Dayrit said that he respects the standards of the World Health Organization but stressed that DOH does not always follow international standards. (Manila Bulletin, May 30)

By September, after a coalition of 21 women non-government organizations continued to protest without let-up and filed a petition seeking a repeal of the earlier DOH decision, Dayrit instructed BFAD to form a committee to review the ban. Dayrit also said in the same order that the committee must ensure that all concerned parties, church and women groups, would have say on the issue. (Manila Times, September 12)

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