Philippines President Benigno Aquino has signed into law a bill allowing for free access to contraception and family planning.
The bill, which took 14 years to pass, will reduce poverty and maternal mortality in a country with the highest birth rate in the region, reported BBC News. The Roman Catholic Church repeatedly tried to block the bill.
According to Al Jazeera, presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Aquino signed the law on December 21, but only announced it Saturday because of the "sensitivity" of the issue.
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"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, whether in the legislative branch or in civil society," Valte said. "At the same time, it opens the possibility of cooperation and reconciliation among different sectors in society: engagement and dialogue characterized not by animosity, but by our collective desire to better the welfare of the Filipino people."
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz, one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill while it was being debated in Congress, said the president is dividing the country by adopting a "first world country value system," reported the Associated Press. He warned that the law will lead to the passage of a divorce bill and same-sex marriage.