- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) - The Philippine president says he is ready to face excommunication from the Catholic Church for advocating free access to condoms.

An acrimonious debate over government-funded access to contraceptives in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest and most populated countries has entered the Philippine Congress.

At stake is the reproductive health bill, introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives. It would require the government to provide information on family planning, make contraceptives available free of charge and run sex education classes in schools. The church vigorously opposes the measure.

President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday he doesn’t want to force anyone to vote against their conscience, but to give people a chance to make well-informed decisions.

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