MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has reminded Catholic health care workers they have the right to object to dispensing contraceptives.

In posting the "Pastoral Guidance on the Implementation of the Reproductive Health Law," Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, conference president, said it was the bishops' pastoral duty to give the "necessary information and instruction" to Catholic physicians, nurses and other medical workers as well as Catholic public servants.

Implementation of the law was put on hold for a year because it faced multiple challenges in the Philippine Supreme Court, mainly from Catholic pro-life groups.

The law calls for government-funded contraception and family planning  advice for the needy, sex education for middle- through high-school students and mandatory medical care for a woman after she has had an abortion, which is illegal in the Philippines. It originally compelled all health workers to comply with the provisions regardless of their religious beliefs.

The pastoral guidance, posted on the bishops' website, highlighted an April Philippine Supreme Court ruling with 15 points that support a conscientious objector's rights and uphold the protection of the family.

The bishops said the ruling clearly allows for Catholic workers to object.

"Obviously, Catholic workers should not, on moral grounds, seek employment in the very government agencies that promote artificial contraception," it said.

It pointed out that consent from both spouses was needed for any medical procedure that would result in permanent contraception. Also, it noted, Catholic schools, which dominate the private school sector, were not obligated to follow the government's sex education curriculum.

Msgr. Marvin Mejia, secretary general of the bishops' conference, told Catholic News Service, "The debate is still there but, in reality, it has become a law already. So ... the bishops (will) try to help ... especially those Catholics who are at the forefront of health care."