Philippines passes divisive contraceptives bill

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine legislators passed a landmark bill today that would provide government funding for contraceptives and sexuality classes in schools despite strong opposition by the dominant Roman Catholic Church and its followers, some of whom threatened to ask the Supreme Court to block the legislation.

The bill is considered a major step toward reducing maternal deaths and promoting family planning in the impoverished country, which has one of Asia’s fastest-growing populations. Church leaders said in a pastoral letter Sunday that if passed, the bill would put the moral fiber of the nation at risk.

A decade-long delay in the bill’s passage has been attributed to politicians’ fear of upsetting conservative Catholic bishops, who helped mobilize popular support for the 1986 “people power” revolt that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the 2001 overthrow of another president, Joseph Estrada.

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