Philippines leader signs divisive reproductive health bill

 A Philippine health worker talks to a class of pregnant women about family planning in Manila in 2011.

Story highlights

  • President Benigno Aquino signs legislation
  • The bill provides sex education classes and government-funded contraception
  • It will take effect in mid-January
  • The Catholic Church opposed it
Legislation providing for government-funded contraception and sex education classes in the Philippines will take effect in mid-January, according to a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino.
Aquino signed the bill on December 21, deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in a statement released Saturday.
Lawmakers nearly two weeks ago approved the legislation, and a reconciliation committee was tasked with working out differences in the versions passed by the two houses.
Despite widespread popular support, the Catholic Church opposed the measure, saying it will destroy marriage and morality in the Philippines. More than 80% of the Philippines' 96 million residents are Catholic.
Passage of the bill closed a divisive chapter in the country's history, said Valte, according to the official Philippines News Agency.
The act "opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation among different sectors in society: engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people," she said.
Sen. Edgardo Angara, who voted for the measure, called the bill "an affirmation of human rights," according to CNN affiliate ABS-CBN.
"We have to consider that not all Filipinos are Catholics. We have Muslims, Protestants, Buddhists, nonbelievers," he said at the time of the bill's passage, according to ABS-CBN.