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House votes to end debate on RH bill

The bill now moves to second reading approval in the House

Women from the Akbayan party join a rally in support of the reproductive health bill Women from the Akbayan party join a rally in support of the reproductive health bill
  • ucanews.com reporters, Manila
  • Philippines
  • August 6, 2012
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The House of Representatives today voted to terminate the period of debate on the highly divisive Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

The plenary carried the motion of House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II terminating the debates on House Bill (HB) 4244 or the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.

The voting was made ahead of the scheduled termination of debates Tuesday after more than 180 members of the House of Representatives trooped to the presidential palace Monday morning, where President Benigno Aquino III explained his position for the passage of RH bill.

The bill, which aims to guide married couples on how to manage the size of their family, is now subject for second reading approval in the House.

It vows to improve maternal health and reduce maternal and infant mortality by preventing high-risk, unwanted and teenage pregnancies through voluntary family planning, including non-abortive contraception.

The decision followed recent rallies and statements from groups on both sides of the issue.

Hundreds of women from the Akbayan Party marched today on the House of Representatives to show support for the bill. Wearing purple shirts and waving purple placards, the women tied purple ribbons around the House building to symbolize the long struggle to ensure the passage of the bill.

“We have finally reached the finish line of a long journey spanning 14 years in pushing for the RH bill, and we are very confident that our efforts will bear fruit,” said Akbayan spokesperson Marie Chris Cabreros.

She said the bishops' rally on Saturday failed to sway the Filipino people to go against the measure.

On Saturday, the Catholic Church gathered about 10,000 people for a prayer rally at EDSA Shrine in Mandaluyong City to show opposition to the bill, which the Church describes as "anti-life and anti-family" for promoting contraceptives.

“There’s a greater war, and it’s to advance the culture of life. This is just one battle,” said Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.

“With or without the RH bill as a law, youths have already embraced the contraceptive culture. That’s why we have to work on them, catechize them again,” he said.

A Protestant Church leader, meanwhile, took the Catholic Church to task for describing the bill as "evil." Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) said the bill is designed to help poor families access maternal and children’s health services.

“It is not evil. It is not perfect but definitely not evil. The measure is in fact good for the many Filipino families who are poor and need help,” said Bishop Villasanta.

He clarified that the UCCP respects the stand of the Catholic Church. "We do not question and counter that position," he said.

The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), a network of more than 30,000 evangelical congregations in the Philippines, also supports the bill.

Bishop Efraim Tendero, PCEC national director, described the bill as "pro-life, pro-development and pro-poor."

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