MANILA, Philippines, August 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Saturday, thousands of red-clad Filipino Catholics braved the rain to protest so-called “reproductive health” legislation which critics fear would promote population control and threaten conscience rights.

Nearly 9,000 people convened at the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Manila to protest House Bill 4244, which would direct public money toward contraception, sterilization, and sex education programs, force private physicians and business to provide comprehensive “reproductive health services,” encourage families to limit themselves to two children, and criminalize criticism of the law determined to be “malicious” and “disinformation.”

Thousands also attended prayer rallies opposing the law throughout the Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Pangasinan and Laguna provinces, as well as the cities of Iloilo, Cebu and Lucena. A candlelight vigil in front of Congress is planned for tonight.

To prevent altercations between proponents and opponents of the law, Manilia authorities deployed marshals to the shrine and closed off the surrounding area to traffic.

The proposed law is “contrary to the laws of God,” said protestor Dolly Cruz, 61. “God gave humans the power of reason to decide what is right and what is wrong for themselves.”

Though abortion remains completely illegal in the Philippines, critics fear the law could erode the nation’s pro-life principles and its understanding of sexual responsibility. “Contraception is corruption,” said Henrietta de Villa, representative to Archbishop Socrates Villegas, on August 4. “Contraceptive pills teach us that it’s all right to have sex with someone provided you’re safe from babies.”

Human Life International also notes that the bill also undermines language in the Constitution of the Philippines, which affirms the state’s obligation to “recogniz[e] the sanctity of family life” and protect the “life of the unborn from conception.”

A vote on the bill is expected to be held on Tuesday. President Benigno Aquino is a strong supporter of the measure, though it is expected to face strong opposition, particularly in the Senate.