MANILA, Philippines, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Philippines President Benigno Aquino has signed a bill into law, over the objection of Catholic clergy, liberalizing rules on contraception and family planning.
The bill, which had been debated for 14 years, is aimed at improving public access to reproductive health services, including family planning, maternal care, responsible parenthood, and sexual and reproductive health education for young people, The Philippine Star reported Saturday.
"I am in favor of giving couples the right to choose how best to manage their families so that in the end, their welfare and that of their children are best served," Aquino said in a statement. "In a situation where couples, especially the poor and disadvantaged ones, are in no position to make an informed judgment, the state has the responsibility to so provide; in the range of options and information provided to couples, natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented as equally available."
The bill, now called Republic Act 10354, was strongly opposed to by the Catholic Church, the BBC reported.
After several failed attempts to win legislative approval, backers final got the bill passed Dec. 19.
The law will take effect next month, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.
"The passage into law of the Responsible Parenthood Act closes a highly divisive chapter of our history -- a chapter borne of the convictions of those who argued for, or against this act," she said. "At the same time, it opens the possibility of co-operation and reconciliation ... engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people."