Thousands protest reproductive health bill in Philippines
Thousands of people took to the streets in the Philippines on Saturday to oppose a proposed law that would ensure access to contraceptives, especially for poor women. The rally against the reproductive health bill was led by the Catholic Church in Manila, ahead of a decision by parliament Tuesday on whether to vote on the bill that has been pending in Congress for 11 years.
Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2012
Despite intermittent heavy rains, some 10,000 people, including priests, nuns and Catholic school students, joined the rally outside a church along Manila's main EDSA highway. The demonstrators carried placards and signs saying: "Defend life. No to RH Bill", "No to Safe Sex" and "Condoms promote the spread of HIV/AIDS. No to RH Bill".
The protesters shouted "Junk it! Junk it!" when Catholic bishops and other speakers asked them what they wanted lawmakers to do with the bill. The Catholic Church and critics of the bill allege that it would promote promiscuity among young Filipinos, instil wrong values that would destroy families and legalise abortion.
But proponents stress that the bill does not change the country's ban on abortion. The bill would make condoms and contraceptives available to the poor, and provide educational programmes to inform all couples of the full range of family planning options. The law would also provide for some sex education for pre-teens, a particularly contentious issue for the Church, but an initiative welcomed by development groups. The Philippines' population is projected to hit 97.6 million this year and to top 100 million in 2014, according to the Commission on Population. The country's official population stood at 92.34 million as of May 2010 and is growing at an average rate of 1.9 per cent per year, according to the National Statistics Office.