August 8, 2012 — The Philippine House on Monday voted to move ahead on a bill that would mandate sex education in schools and subsidize contraceptives, the New York Times reports. The bill had been stalled in the country's Congress for 14 years.
House lawmakers voted to close debate and allow amendments on the Reproductive Health Bill, marking an important procedural step before it heads to the Senate and President Benigno Aquino. Aquino, whose allies have a majority in the Senate, strongly supports the bill.
The legislation would direct the country's Department of Health to provide "medically safe, legal, accessible, affordable and effective reproductive health care services nationwide." It also requires "age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education" beginning in the fifth grade (Whaley, New York Times, 8/6). Abortion would remain illegal in the Philippines under the legislation.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has led opponents of the bill, who have pledged to campaign against lawmakers who support it (Reuters, 8/6).
On Sunday, the legislation received a rare endorsement from the World Health Organization, which noted that the number of Philippine women dying from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth rose by 36% from 2006 to 2011 (New York Times, 8/6).