Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Philippine Catholics Defiant on Birth Control ; Church Rallies Support in Response to Measure Subsidizing Contraception

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Philippine Catholics Defiant on Birth Control ; Church Rallies Support in Response to Measure Subsidizing Contraception

Article excerpt

Catholics dig in their heels after Congress passes legislation to give poor women in the Philippines access to affordable contraception

After losing a battle to stop the passage of a contentious birth control law, Catholic Church officials on Tuesday dug in and instructed their millions of followers to campaign against the measure in communities, schools and homes.

"Let us intensify the moral spiritual education of our youth and children so that they can stand strong against the threats to their moral fiber," Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas said in a statement. "Let us use all the means within our reach to safeguard the health of expectant mothers in our communities."

The Philippine Congress passed legislation on Monday to help the country's poorest women gain access to birth control. Each chamber of the national legislature passed its own version of the measure, and minor differences between the two must be reconciled before the measure goes to President Benigno S. Aquino III for his signature.

The measure had been stalled for more than a decade because of determined opposition from the church in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.

Birth control is legal and widely available in the Philippines for people who can afford it, particularly those living in cities. But condoms, birth control pills and other forms of contraception are sometimes kept out of community health centers and clinics by local government and Catholic Church officials.

The measure that passed on Monday would stock government health centers, including those in remote areas, with free or subsidized birth control options for the poor. It would also require sex education in public schools and family-planning training for community health officers.

Archbishop Villegas, the vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, on Tuesday encouraged Catholics to resist the measure by distributing information about natural family planning methods and warning people about "the hazardous effects of contraceptive pills on the health of women. …

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