Philippines to Pass Birth Control Bill


Philippine legislators were Monday poised to pass landmark birth control laws paving the way for increased sex education and free contraceptives, despite lobbying by the Catholic church, the bill's author said.

The Philippine Senate is due to vote on the Reproductive Health Bill during its crucial second reading, while the House of Representatives will vote for the third and final time late Monday, said Congressman Edcel Lagman.

Lagman said he was confident the bill would be approved by both the House and the Senate, which each need to pass it in three readings -- the third of which is largely seen as a formality.

"We are sure it will pass (in the Senate.) We expect the margin of victory to be wider in the House," he told AFP, despite angry campaigning from the Catholic church in the nation of 100 million, where 70 percent of the population are followers.

Bishops across the country have argued that laws allowing increased sex education and the handing out of contraception will encourage pre-marital sex and lead to the legalisation of abortion.

The bill will be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino if both houses of parliament agree on a common version.

Lagman, who has been pushing family planning legislation for more than a decade, said he was confident the two chambers would reach agreement.

He shrugged off intense lobbying by the Catholic church, including warnings that bishops would campaign against advocates of the bill in next year's elections.

"It's more of a threat than a reality. The experience in other Catholic countries is once a law is passed on reproductive health, even the Catholic church became silent and supports the law," he said.

The bill is seen as a way of moderating the country's population growth, reducing poverty and bringing down the high maternal mortality rate.

"The key provision is the prioritisation of the poor and marginalised sectors who really need information and services of reproductive health," Lagman said.

Bishops campaigned against the proposals at the weekend, reading a pastoral letter to congregations across the country during Mass, saying: "The wide and free accessibility of contraceptives, even to the youth, will result in the destruction of family life and in greater violence against women."

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