Lifestyle & Belief

At last, Philippine contraception wars near final act


An illegal abortion cocktail known in the Philippines as "pampa regla" purchased on the black market outside one of Manila's most exalted churches, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Vendors promise the concoction can cause even a 1-month-old human embryo to bleed out with menstruation.


Patrick Winn

Filipino Catholic priests have warned that, if lawmakers pass a bill promoting contraception use among the Philippines' fast-growing population, the nation's spiritual foundation would crumble.

But this morning, at 2 a.m., politicians passed the bill anyway, the Manila-based Inquirer reports.

The long-debated "Reproductive Health" bill is still winding its way through Congress. But it appears that the best efforts of Filipino bishops will fail to stop its enactment.

This bill has been the obsession of Vatican-appointed Filipino bishops for more than a decade. The law, by Western standards, is fairly uncontroversial: it subsidizes birth control in a nation where families who can't afford birth control produce more kids than they'd like to and find themselves mired in poverty.

Just a few months ago, while reporting "Abortion Cocktails and Condom Wars," I met one of these women: a homeless mother of eight named Josephine. She'd breastfed until her calcium was depleted and her teeth fell out.

Just a short taxi ride from where Josephine slept, vendors sold black-market abortion kits outside one of Manila's most exalted churches. As you can see from this photo, this kit amounted to a purplish liquid and a set of herbal pills taken over the course of a few days.

Lawmakers promoting this bill have been called wayward Catholics, agents of spiritual ruin and accessories to murder. Still, a majority of them appear intent on passing it. Perhaps the church will resort to following through on a previous threat: excommunicating the bill's most ardent supporters.