The legislators are expected to reconcile two versions of the bill and send it to President Benigno Aquino by Wednesday. Aquino is expected to sign it into law (CNN, 12/17).
The Roman Catholic Church has vehemently opposed the legislation, leading it to stall in the country's Legislature for more than a decade. Socrates Villegas, vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said that "the wide and free accessibility of contraceptives will result in the destruction of family life."
The United Nations earlier this year said the measure would slow the spread of HIV, as well as reduce the number of pregnancy-related deaths and unsafe abortions, according to AP/ABC News.
About half of the country's 3.4 million pregnancies each year are unintended and one-third end in abortion, according to the U.N. Population Fund. Nearly 70% of Filipino women do not use contraception and 11 die each day from pregnancy-related problems.
Carlos Conde, a researcher at the Human Rights Watch in New York, said, "Many Filipino women have faced difficulties and sometimes death because of the absence of a comprehensive and consistent reproductive health policy. This law can change that" (Hranjski, AP/ABC News, 12/17).