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Philippine birth-control law is on hold

MANILA — The Philippine Supreme Court temporarily halted a landmark law on Tuesday that would provide free contraception to poor women.

In a 10-5 ruling, the court froze for 120 days when the law could take effect. It was passed in December after a ferocious national debate that pitted the Roman Catholic Church against President Benigno S. Aquino III.

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Supporters and opponents of the legislation will argue their cases before the Supreme Court on June 18, said a court spokesman, Theodore Te.

The decision indicates that the Supreme Court is seriously considering the more than a half-dozen petitions filed against the law, said Harry Roque, a constitutional expert.

That does not necessarily mean the measure is likely to be ruled unconstitutional, he added. The Supreme Court has previously delayed laws that it later validated.

“The law will be carefully examined in court as it was when it was debated in Congress,’’ Roque said.

Birth control is legal and widely available in the Philippines, but it is out of the reach of many poor women and those living in provincial areas.

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