Women's groups and other supporters of the law have praised Aquino for pushing its passage within the first half of his six-year term after the measure languished in Congress for 13 years largely because legislators were reluctant to pass it because of the strong opposition of the Catholic Church.
The Aquino administration "should be commended for its political will to see this law through," said Carlos Conde, Asia Researcher for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.
Conde said the law "will advance human rights in the Philippines, particularly of women and mothers" and empower them to make their own decisions over their health and family life. "It gives a clear mandate to the government to make reproductive health services readily available and, because of that, the law can save many lives," he said.
In about a dozen provisions, the 24-page law repeatedly reminds that abortion drugs are banned, but it requires health workers to provide care for those who have complications arising from illegal abortions.
Under the law, the government will hire more village health workers who will distribute contraceptives, especially to the poor, and provide instructions on natural family planning methods that the Church approves.
The government will also train teachers who will provide age- and development-appropriate reproductive health education to adolescents — youth age 10 to 19 years old. This will include information on protection against discrimination and sexual abuse and violence against women and children, teen pregnancy, and women's and children's rights.