MANILA, Philippines, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The Philippines Congress approved its Reproductive Health Bill, offering government-provided contraception and sex education classes, after heated debate.
The bill, known as the RH Bill, passed the Senate 13-8 and the House of Representatives 133-79 Sunday night. A reconciliation committee will work out differences in the House and Senate versions before the legislation goes to President Benigno Aquino, who is expected to sign it before Christmas, The Philippine Star reported Monday.
The sweeping reforms ended months of debate and acrimony pitting politicians and social organizations against the Catholic Church in the heavily Catholic country, the newspaper noted.
"The people now have the government on their side as they raise their families in a manner that is just and empowered," the president's spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said in a statement.
Although the bill was heavily criticized by the nation's Catholic Church hierarchy, principal author and co-sponsor Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago downplayed the church's opposition.
"There is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come and that idea today is the RH Bill," Defensor-Santiago said.