Thursday, April 10, 2014

Aquino’s contraceptives

The Roman Catholic Church lost a legal battle against the Philippine government on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court ruled that the Reproductive Health Law was constitutional, allowing the administration of President Benigno Aquino III to provide healthcare services and promote family planning in the predominantly Catholic nation.

With a population of 96 million, the Philippines has one of Asia’s fastest growing populations. The UN Population Fund states there are 3.4 million pregnancies in the country every year, half of which are unplanned and a third aborted, often at illegal and therefore high-risk clinics.

Under a strong legal umbrella, the government can now freely distribute condoms, pills, intra-uterine devices and other contraceptives for all, especially the poor. The government can also now require schools to provide sex education, a long-time taboo.

The defeat of the church adds to the growing list of similar situations in predominantly Catholic nations, including Argentina, from where Pope Francis hails. Aquino defied the church’s prohibition of using any kind of family planning device or contraceptive to prevent pregnancies.

In a recent interview with the La Civita Catholica publication, the Pope took a more reconciliatory tone, yet with the same substance.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods [...] but when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” he said.

The church’s teachings on reproduction are some of its most ignored, because for even the most faithful, the teaching seems irresponsible, given that the church does not exactly share the burden of an explosive birth rate nor does it have to take care of the poor’s offspring.

Opponents of the church’s restrictions have argued that uncontrollable population growth is one of most difficult obstacles for development globally. As all Catholic church leaders are unmarried, many followers confide they do not have a clue about raising children when referring to the “sacredness of human life”, as mentioned by Bishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

He said the church must continue to “teach always the dignity of the human person and to safeguard the life of every human person from conception to natural death”.

President Aquino has taken a dramatic risk in his health and population policy. The church leaders will not have their orders ignored for any reason; so hopefully he will gain the support of the majority of citizens.
The Jakarta Post | Editorial |

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