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Philippines court approves ‘watered down’ Reproductive Health law
08 April 2014 19:25 by Abigail Frymann Rouch

The Supreme Court in the Philippines has approved a law long fought by the country’s Catholic bishops that will make contraception freely available, make sex education compulsory in schools and provide medical care for women who have had illegal abortions.

The Reproductive Health bill requires government health centres to distribute free condoms and contraceptive pills.

But a spokesman for the Philippines’ bishops' conference said the ruling was not a “lost cause” because the court declared unconstitutional the inclusion of abortifacients as contraceptives, a requirement that church-run health facilities provide contraception, and a ban on health-care providers who refuse to offer contraception.

The court had deferred implementating the law when it was passed in December 2012 after the Catholic Church and other religious groups questioned its constitutionality.

The Philippines is about 80 per cent Catholic, and with a population approaching 100 million, has one of the highest birth rates in Asia.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Philippines’ bishops’ conference, said that although the court had upheld the Reproductive Health (RH) law, “it has truly watered down the RH law and consequently upheld the importance of adhering to an informed religious conscience even among government workers.”