Birth Control

Philippine Congress Approves Birth Control Bill

Intended to approve access for the poor, has been tied up in battle with Catholic church

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After a ferocious national debate that pitted family members against one another, and some faithful Catholics against their church, the Philippine Congress passed legislation on Monday to help the country's poorest women gain access to birth control.

"The people now have the government on their side as they raise their families in a manner that is just and empowered," said Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman for President Benigno S. Aquino III, who pushed for passage.

Each chamber of the national legislature passed its own version of the measure — by 13 to 8 in the Senate and 133 to 79 in the House of Representatives — and the two must still be reconciled before going to Mr. Aquino for signature.