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Philippines Supreme Court Hears Arguments For, Against Reproductive Health Law

“The Philippines Supreme Court began hearing a last-ditch attempt to block the controversial, long-awaited Reproductive Health Law on Tuesday,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “The Philippines Congress passed the RH bill, which requires authorities down to village level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services, in December, ending some 13 years of debate on what proponents see as a human rights issue but bishops of the influential Roman Catholic Church oppose on religious grounds,” the news service writes, noting the law would require “government funding for reproductive health services and ensur[e] that all public health facilities provide a full range of family planning methods.” The law — which was supposed to take effect on March 30 but was delayed by the high court in March “for 120 days in response to a petition from pro-life campaigners” – “will not promote abortion, which is illegal in the Philippines, a deeply religious country where around 80 percent of the people are Catholic Christians,” Reuters notes (Win, 7/9).

“The restraining order was issued in response to consolidated petitions of several groups who brought the issue to the court wanting to halt the implementation of the Reproductive Health law soon after its passage last year,” Xinhua reports, noting, “There are 15 petitions challenging the RH Law while six interveners are seeking to uphold its legality” (7/9). “It is the last legal recourse for the Church, which had for more than a decade led resistance efforts to birth control legislation in the mainly Catholic Southeast Asian nation by lobbying and intimidating politicians,” the Philippines Star writes (Punay, 7/10). GlobalPost notes that “multiple legal challenges must be cleared away before [the law's] enactment” (Winn, 7/9).