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Philippine president backs birth control law
With a disturbing increase in maternal and child mortality rates, the Philippine President, Benigno Aquino, is supporting legislation aimed at allowing free access to fertility control and sex education, as Kesha West reports.

Every hour something like 200 babies are born in the Philippines.

Increasingly it is poor teenagers who are getting pregnant - most with little or no access to contraception or family planning advice.

The result has been a disturbing increase in maternal and child mortality rates, as well as backyard abortions.

For well over a decade the Catholic Church has blocked efforts to provide free access to fertility control and sex education, but now President Benigno Aquino is taking on the bishops.

Kesha West reports from Manila.
KESHA WEST, REPORTER: It's Sunday morning in Marikina and the whole town has turned out for mass. The presence of the Church is evident in every aspect of daily life, particularly when it comes to family planning.

BISHOP GABRIEL REYES, CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES: It's against the moral law. For us, contraception is against the natural moral law of marriage.

KESHA WEST: But as the population soars and with it teenage pregnancies, even Catholic Filipinos have come to believe this way of thinking might be damaging the country.

CHERRY FRANCISCO: I was 14 years old when I first got pregnant. Now, this is on my sixth pregnancy. The very first baby died inside my womb at 8 months.

KESHA WEST: The Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital is one of the world's busiest maternity hospitals.

NURSE: On a single bed we have two mothers but we put our beds together, we call them tandem bed and we have four mothers and four babies on two beds.

KESHA WEST: While its very rare for a baby or mother to die during childbirth in this hospital it does sometimes happen. Across the Philippines maternal mortality rates in particular have jumped almost 40% since 2006 and the nurses here say meeting their millenium development goal of reducing that rate is next to impossible. The U-N has urged the Philippines to fast-track a bill, which will allow state-funded contraception and mandatory sex education in schools.

UGOCHI DANIELS, UN POPULATION FUND: Every day that services and information are not provided is measured in the number of women and girls who die, who lose their lives while trying to give life.

KESHA WEST: The President has now thrown his weight behind the Reproductive Health Bill - in defiance of the church.

BENIGNO AQUINO, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: Items like sex education for instance, how can anyone argue that there is such a need, it shouldn't be deriving your knowledge from your peer group who are actually as ignorant as you.

KESHA WEST: Lawmakers are now confident the Bill can be passed by end of the year, but the Church has vowed to fight it in the Supreme Court.
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