12/11/2012, 00.00
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Catholics and pro-life groups march on eve of Reproductive Health Bill vote

The vote on the day of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn. For Catholics, it is a deliberate provocation against those who oppose the bill. If the "yes" vote wins, the distribution of contraceptives and abortion pills will be free, the law also provides for fines for couples who have more than two children and promotes voluntary sterilization.

Manila (AsiaNews) - After 14 years of debate tomorrow the Philippine Parliament will vote on the law for birth control, which provides for the distribution of contraceptives and abortion pills. For the Church, it is a "prelude to a law on the legalization of abortion." The session will be held on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn. According to AsiaNews sources, this choice "is a deliberate provocation against Catholics" who have always been opposed to the norm. Yesterday, the Philippine Bishops Conference confirmed the presence of its delegates during the vote, to ensure transparency and avoid coups in the case of a narrow "yes" majority.

In a statement, Fr. Melvin Castro, Secretary to the Commission and family life, has invited all Christians to pray and protest against the approval of the decree. A Mass will be said in the parish of St. Peter, just a few blocks from Parliament. After the service, the Catholics will hold a procession through the Batasan neighborhood (Quezon City, Manila). Today Card. Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, announced a prayer vigil at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe Makaty City. Pro-life groups have planned a series of demonstrations and sit-ins in front of the entrance to parliament.

After several revisions, the law that will be decided tomorrow rejects clinical abortion, but promotes a family planning program that invites couples to have no more than two children. It allows in some cases, conscientious objection, but at the same time encourages voluntary sterilization. Church and Catholic associations argue that the Natural Family Programme (NFP), which aims at providing the general public a culture of responsibility and love based on natural values. The bill is mostly promoted by major international organizations such as UN and UNICEF, which associate the high birth rate to poverty in the country. The countries that do not adhere to these rules will lose their right to receive humanitarian aid.

The parliamentary debate on Reproductive Health has been running for four years, but similar decrees had already been presented at the end of the 90s and rejected by President Gloria Arroyo, closer to the Catholic position. With the rise to power of Benigno Aquino in 2010, the pressure for immediate approval grew. In recent days, the president has reiterated the need for a law that controls the high birth rate - 24.8 births per 1000 inhabitants - stressing that overpopulation is the main factor responsible for the economic crisis in the country. (S.C.)


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