Bicameral conference committee approves controversial RH bill

People rally outside congress in Manila on August 6, 2012 for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Philippine legislators were Monday poised to pass landmark birth control laws, despite lobbying by the Catholic church, the bill's author said

Just two days after both houses of Congress approved the controversial Reproductive Health bill on third and final reading, the bicameral conference committee approved the proposed legislation on Wednesday and proponents said they would attempt to have it ratified before they go on Christmas recess.

The committee will submit a unified legislation that has to be ratified by both the House of representatives and the Senate before it can be submitted to President Aquino for enactment into law. The bill seeks to improve public access to reproductive health services, including natural and artifical family planning options. It also promotes better maternal care, responsible parenthood, and youth education on sexual and reproductive health issues. The Catholic Church has staunchly opposed the bill. Earlier Wednesday, Senator Pia Cayetano said she will push for the resolution of contentious provisions in the RH bill with just one bicameral conference committee meeting, paving the way for its approval and ratification on the same day. She said the most contentious provisions are the role of the local and national government in providing RH services, the access of minors to contraceptives, and mandatory RH education.

"That [ratification today] would be ideal. Medyo confident naman ako na yung mga issues na yun kaya naman ma-resolve," Cayetano told reporters before the start of the bicameral conference committee meeting in Pasay City.

"Wala kaming session tomorrow [Thursday] unless magpatawag ng special session so we really have to try to do it today," she added. The Senate will go on holiday break starting next week. Wednesday's plenary session will be the last for the year. — LBG/YA, GMA News