06/27/2013, 00.00
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As the Reproductive health law goes before the Supreme Court, Filipino Church holds prayer vigil

On 9 July, the Supreme Court justices will vet the law. Catholics plan to gather before the highest court for a prayerful and festive assembly in opposition to the "unconstitutional" law. Fourteen years in the making, the law is opposed by Cardinal Tagle for whom the "absolute" value of human life will "defeat birth controls".

Manila (AsiaNews) - The Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has organised a prayer vigil for 9 July to coincide with a Supreme Court hearing over the controversial Reproductive Health Law.

Fr Melvin Castro, ECFL executive secretary, made the announcement during an interview on Church-run Radio Veritas in which he explained the reasons behind the gathering.

Catholics, he said, hope to see the justices declare the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (Republic Act No. 10354), better known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, as unconstitutional.

In view of this, the priest wants the community to come in great numbers to the prayer vigil, noting that it ought to be a prayerful and festive assembly, a positive moment not meant to criticise anyone. The Church's aim is to encourage the faithful to reiterate their firm opposition to the law, signed in secret by President Benigno Aquino III on 21 December.

The gathering is set for "9 am in front of the Supreme Court," Fr Castro said. "Let us pray for the justices that they may stand firm for the constitution," he added. "Let us pray that the justices will freely decide on the matter." Ten justices have in fact voted to put the law on hold against five who were in favour.

The Reproductive Health Law was adopted after a year of debate in the Filipino Congress, and five major rewrites since the proposal was first made 14 years ago against the fierce opposition of the Catholic Church.

Passed last December, the law rejects clinical abortion and sponsors a family planning programme in which couples are encouraged to have no more than two children. It also allows people to exercise their right to conscientious objection in some cases, but at the same time promotes voluntary sterilisation.

The Catholic Church and Catholic associations favour instead the Natural Family Programme (NFP), which seeks to encourage the general public to adopt a culture of responsibility and love based on natural values.

Major international organisations, such as the United Nations and UNICEF, are behind the bill; for them, a high birth rate and poverty are correlated. Countries that do not agree lose their right to humanitarian aid.

In recent months, Card Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, spoke out on the controversial issue, stressing the "absolute" value of human life, which will "defeat birth controls".

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