By AnotherLouise and Terra
When the Pope talked, in his letter last week, about ‘vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel’, most people thought he was talking above all about Europe.
But in fact, that threat is everywhere, even in former bastions of the faith like the Philippines, the world’s twelfth most populous country, where a group is attempting to introduce a ‘Reproductive Health Bill’ aimed at limiting population growth through the promotion of contraception and compulsory family planning education. The Bill is due to be voted on next month.
The Catholic Philippines?
On the face of it, the Philippines is one of the last places you would expect to see a draconian China style two-child policy being pushed. Eighty one percent of the Philippines population of over 96 million identify themselves as Catholics after all, and its Constitution actually formally protects the unborn from conception in its constitution, and specifically bans abortion.
Yet that is exactly what is happening.
The Reproductive Health Bill
The main aim of the bill is to reduce population growth through government funding of contraceptives – particularly for the poor – and to introduce mandatory “Reproductive Health Education” starting in grade 5. Under the Bill, contraceptives would be treated as ‘essential medicines’, provided at taxpayer expense. Tied in with this is improved pre- and post- pregnancy support, such as trained midwives in remote districts who would also distribute contraceptives. The basic premise of the bill seems to be that "family planning" and abortion somehow equate to reproductive "health".
The main justification for the Bill is claimed to be the need to reduce population growth – but in fact fertility rates in the Philippines have been falling steadily in recent years, and the population growth rate currently stands at a modest 2%.
The Philippines does have a huge problem with maternal/infant mortality, with over 100 women dying each day from birth related complications. So there is a real need for increased pre- and post- natal maternal health funding. However, instead of just concentrating on increasing funding for maternal, prenatal and ante-natal services, the instigators of this bill want to provide government funding for contraceptives and have an all out "education" campaign on "family planning" which would promote an ideal of 2 children per family.
The bill includes some pretty dangerous - and outrageous – provisions, such as ‘offering’ tubal ligations to indigent women who have children in public hospital, compulsory family planning education before marriage, and anti-conscientious objection clauses directed at medical personnel and employers, who will have to provide ‘reproductive health ‘education’’ and ‘devices’.
The State of Play
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is fighting hard, but making little headway – representatives of the Bishops’ Conference walked out of Senate committee hearings on the Bill last month because their views were being disregarded.
The two main protestant churches, Muslim groups – and ‘pro-choice catholics’ led by a a group of Jesuit university professors – are supporting the bill, and numbers are reportedly tight.
If passed, the Bill would have to approved by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is a staunch Catholic and has in the past taken a very strong stand on pro-life issues. There are elections coming up next year however…