Philippine contraception bill stirs battle with church
By Manny Mogato
MANILA (Reuters) - Fliers placed at the entrance to most churches in the Philippines request donations for the poor, list upcoming special events or simply ask for prayers.
But in the heart of Manila's business district, one chapel has put up a petition opposing a family planning bill before Congress and asking the faithful in this predominantly Roman Catholic country to sign.
The bill on maternal health care, which requires the government to promote artificial contraception if it becomes law, has become a battleground between the powerful church and activists in the staunchly Roman Catholic nation.
Some bishops have said they will refuse communion and other sacraments to politicians who support the bill, set to be discussed this month in the House of Representatives.
Others warn that the church's crucial backing in the 2010 presidential and congressional elections will only be given to those who oppose the bill.
"I have never seen the bishops so aggressive in a campaign to block a piece of social legislation as in this case against the reproductive health care bill," said Aries Rufo, a journalist who has been covering church issues for more than a decade.
"In the last six attempts to legislate a population policy, a bill never gets out of the committee level in the lower house. It is only now that the chance of passing a law on family planning is really high."
The bill was approved by the House Committee on Health last month, setting the stage for a test of strength with the church, which has played a key role in the ouster of two presidents in the past three decades and blocked legislation on divorce, abortion and family planning. Continued...