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Philippine top court halts contraceptives law

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:28 p.m. HST, Mar 19, 2013

MANILA » The Philippine Supreme Court temporarily halted the implementation of a law that provides state funding for contraceptives, legislation opposed by the dominant Roman Catholic Church but supported by reproductive health activists.

The Responsible Parenthood Law was passed by lawmakers late last year despite the church's opposition but petitioners questioned its legality on several grounds, saying it offends religious beliefs and fosters abortion, which remains illegal in the country.

Voting 15-5 in favor of 10 separate petitions Tuesday, the justices stopped the implementation of the law until June 18, when both sides will argue their cases before the court, said Theodore Te, spokesman for the Supreme Court.

Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church's core values and say it promotes promiscuity and destroys life. The government says it helps the poor manage the number of children they have and provides for maternal health care.

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unwanted, according to the U.N. Population Fund, and a third of those end up aborted in back-alley clinics.

The Philippines has a population of 94 million and one of Asia's highest birth rates.

Edwin Lacierda, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III, said that the government was confident it will be able to defend the merits of the law.

Aquino risked the clash with the church and church-backed politicians to sponsor the law and lobby for its passage. Aquino signed the law in December, and the Department of Health last week drafted and approved its implementing rules, setting it into motion.

The law mandates government health centers to provide universal and free access to nearly all contraceptives to everyone, particularly the country's poorest, who make up a third of the population. So far, such access has been patchy, expensive, and hinged on the political will of local governments. In the past, for instance, some mayors banned free distribution of condoms in their areas.

The law also makes sexual education compulsory in public schools.

The government made some concessions in deference to the church, according to Mellisa Upreti, regional director for Asia at the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

It failed to legalize all contraceptives, including emergency contraception, and the law contains a measure that allows private and religious-affiliated hospitals to deny reproductive health services based on their moral and theological objections, Upreti wrote in Tuesday's Guardian newspaper.

Private-run Catholic hospitals are among the leading providers of health care in the Philippines.

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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Again, religion is deciding for everyone what is right. Unfortunately, as a result, the problem that was being dealt with, in this case, unwanted pregnancies, is not solved. This is a different world we live in. It is no longer the old where children were blindly obedient. They now question everything and tend towards experimentation. Simply continuing the old ways that are not working in the new world is not going to work. Today, children need to be educated on matters that back then was left to them to discover on their own. Children are increasingly getting involved in sexual matters at earlier ages. We need to adjust our way of doing things in order to help them avoid the pitfalls that they may not have the knowledge to do. Too many high school girls are getting pregnant here in the US. Some may say that a lack of religion has led to this problem but then some may say that religion has been the cause of such a problem. Why can it be such a problem? Because sex is such a taboo subject in many religious homes that it is swept under the rug. Hence, the problem with unwanted pregnancies.
on March 20,2013 | 10:42AM
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