Philippine president signs reproductive health bill into law

[JURIST] Philippine House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales III [House profile] announced [Philippine Daily Inquirer report] on Friday that Philippine President Benigno Aquino III [official website] had quietly signed into law on the 21st of December a bill which will make contraception, birth control, sexual education, and maternal care universally available to all Filipinos. The law, known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act [text, PDF], was passed by the legislature earlier this month [JURIST report] after more than 13 years of national debate over the issue. The Catholic Church, which remains an influential institution in the Philippines as 80 percent of the population is Catholic, opposes the bill, arguing that it will lead to the destruction of marriage and morality [CNN report] in the country. The bill's opponents have attacked provisions which will result in tax revenue going to free condoms and birth control pills for indigent couples, sex education classes beginning in the sixth grade for students, and medical treatment for women who suffer post-abortion complications, though the nation still forbids the practice of abortions. The law is still subject to a constitutionality challenge in the nation's Supreme Court [official website]. Catholic officials have also announced they plan to fight [Philippine Daily Inquirer report] to unseat those who supported the legislation.

The right to sex education and contraceptives, particularly funding issues, continues to be a global issue. In October, France approved [JURIST report] a bill to pay for contraceptive and abortion coverage for minors. The day before that, a US federal appeals court declined to rehear [JURIST report] a Texas Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] funding case in which it ruled that the state could prohibit funding of facilities that perform abortions. In September an Illinois appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that pharmacists can refuse to dispense birth control drugs if they have religious objections to them. In May the Tennessee House of Representatives [official website] passed a bill [PDF, JURIST report] that augments the state's abstinence-only sex education curriculum to allow parents to sue school teachers or organizations who promote "gateway sexual activity". In 2009 a German court rejected a challenge [JURIST report] on religious grounds to mandatory sex education.

 

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