Is the RH Log-Jam Breaking in Philippines? House ends debate on RH bill.

August 7, 2012 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Asia/Pacific, News

Various versions of a Reproductive Health Bill have been debated for over a decade in the Philippines; recently, however, there has been some substantive progress. On Monday August 6th, the Filipino House of Representatives voted to end debate on their version of the bill and move it to the next phase of lawmaking: the period when amendments can be offered. In the report below, NY Times reporter Floyd Whaley writes that this represents an “important procedural step signaling that final approval is likely.

Philippines Set to Vote on Reproductive Health Bill


Published: August 6, 2012

MANILA – Despite opposition from the powerful Roman Catholic Church, a bill that would mandate sex education in schools and subsidize contraceptives moved ahead on Monday after being stalled in the Philippine Congress for 14 years.

“May God have mercy on our Congress,” said Angel N. Lagdameo, an archbishop in the central Philippines, one of a number of church leaders who condemned the measure.

The Philippine House of Representatives voted on Monday to close debate and allow amendments on the bill – not final approval, but an important procedural step signaling that final approval is likely. The Reproductive Health Bill, as the measure is known, must also be approved by the Senate and signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III before it can become law, but Mr. Aquino strongly backs the bill and his allies control the Senate.

The bill would direct the Department of Health to distribute “medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable and effective reproductive health care services nationwide,” and requires “age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” from the fifth grade through high school.

Contraceptives are legal and can be bought readily here, but unlike some other Asian nations with fast-growing populations, the Philippines has no distribution program to help the poor obtain them.

Mr. Aquino, whose mother, Corazon Aquino, led the movement that toppled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s with the backing of the Catholic Church, has said that the Philippines must reduce its high birthrate among the poor. His policy received a rare endorsement on Sunday from the World Health Organization, which said in a statement that “the proposed law will fundamentally enable the government to meet its commitments to its citizens.”

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