A proposed law that would provide Philippine government funding for contraceptives received UN support on Sunday. The Reproductive Health bill would require the government to provide information about family planning methods, ensure that poor couples have access to free contraceptives such as condoms, and establish reproductive health and sexuality classes in schools. It also would encourage families to limit their number of children to two.
The House of Representatives could decide to end debate on the bill on Tuesday, moving it closer to a vote. The issue has divided the country for years and pits the Roman Catholic Church, which opposes the bill, against popular President Benigno Aquino III, who supports it.
On Saturday, Catholic bishops led thousands in a rally to push for the bill’s rejection. Archbishop Socrates Villegas called on Aquino to reject “a culture of contraception” that “looks at babies as reasons for poverty ... a mistake and not a blessing.” Bill supporters planned a rally Monday outside Congress.
In a statement issued in Manila on Sunday, the UN said the bill would promote responsible parenthood, help reduce the high number of maternal deaths, prevent abortions, and slow the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“As in many other countries where similar policies have been introduced, enacting a law that would address the reproductive health needs of the Filipino people would, over time, vastly improve health and quality of life and support development,” the UN said. If left unchecked, the country’s rapid population growth could keep millions of Filipinos in poverty, and “hopes of future prosperity could turn to dust,” the UN said.
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