The Reproductive Health bill has been a controversial issue in the Philippines – a country caught between upholding religious morality and helping impoverished families. In his State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III urged “responsible parenthood”, signaling a push forward of voting on the bill that had been stalled due to fierce opposition from the Catholic Church. Philippine lawmakers will put an end on the debate this week following calls from the United Nations.
It’s common in the Philippines to see a young mother carrying a baby, with two or three children tugging at her skirt. Low-income families have the tendency to have more children than those in the middle and upper classes. The bill will require the government to make contraceptives available, provide information on family planning methods, classes on reproductive health and sexuality in schools. Religious officials have attacked the bill, claiming that family planning promotes abortion by preventing conception of life. Tens of thousands rallied against the bill in Manila including prominent religious figures.
The country is gripped by poverty and unusually high birthrates, with some 25 births per 1,000 people every year, according to the Wall Street Journal. A professor at the Ateneo de Manila University said: “There is a population issue in terms of the demand on natural resources – we cannot keep increasing rapidly as we have been”. Younger generations are largely in support of the RH bill.