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Catholics Applaud Final Passage of Reproductive Health Law

December 17, 2012

Today in the Philippines the Reproductive Health Bill (known as the RH Bill) cleared its final hurdle when it was passed by the Senate 13-8 on its second and third reading. The bill will give millions of women the right to access contraception, which was, in many cases, out of their reach.

Reproductive health has long been on the docket in the legislature, but despite support from many lawmakers and citizens, the RH Bill has taken 14 years to build enough momentum to become a reality. The lower house version of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Edcel Lagman, passed the second reading last week 113-104, with three abstentions. By today the RH Bill had garnered even more support, and it was approved in the house 133-79, with seven abstentions, on the third and final reading.

Magdalena Lopez, International Program Director at Catholics for Choice, said, “The Senate vote of 13-8 in favor of the RH Bill made history, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Some of the senators who helped pass the legislation struggled for years against the bishops’ stubborn opposition to this public health measure, enduring personal attacks, and at times, an uphill battle that looked impossible. The tally also doesn’t take into account the thousands of activists working behind the scenes, facing the same kind of pressure, sharing the same belief that access to reproductive health services allows individuals to make the right choices for themselves and their families. With the RH Bill finally in place, we look forward to seeing reductions in maternal mortality and HIV rates, as well as increases in the sort of things you can’t measure—the dignity and personal autonomy that are affirmed by choice.”

A final draft of the law that brings together the senate and house versions will be submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for signature in early 2013. He is expected to sign it.