(UPDATED Dec. 29, 11: 04 a.m.) The Philippines now has a Reproductive Health (RH) law as the highly controversial measure bagged President Benigno Aquino III's approval, the Palace confirmed Saturday.
"Today, Republic Act No. 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, has been published online in the Official Gazette, after being signed by President Aquino on December 21, 2012," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement.
The measure is expected to widen public access to reproductive health services, including both natural and artificial family planning.
The President has earlier certified the RH bill as urgent, fast-tracking its passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Background: Congress ratifies RH bill, clearing final hurdle before PNoy signs it into law
In a historic vote, the two legislative chambers separately approved the RH bill on third and final reading Dec. 17.
Only two days after, it was approved by the bicameral conference committee and immediately ratified by both houses of Congress.
The new law is set to take effect 15 days after its publication in at least two newspapers of general circulation.
"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," she added.
Also read: Post-RH politics
The RH law has been strongly opposed by the Church, which claims that it leans toward the legalization of abortion.
Church leaders said lay groups are set to launch a national campaign to protest the signing of the RH bill into law.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has also earlier noted that it will support any challenge to the RH bill before the Supreme Court.
In a statement on Friday, meanwhile, the Palace touted the RH law as one of the Aquino administration's accomplishments in 2012.
"After languishing for several terms, and in the face of tremendous pressure from lobbyists, Congress responded to the bill’s certification as urgent by the President, and passed the law before the end of the year," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
A Chinese team has arrived in Malaysia to assist in investigations. …