Agence France-Presse, April 4,
Pope's Hard Line
on Birth Control Is Demographic Time Bomb for
The uncompromising birth control policies promoted
by Pope John Paul II were embraced wholeheartedly
by the church in the predominantly Catholic
Philippines, which has one of the highest birth
rates in Asia and tens of millions living in
Condom use is almost non-existent and poor birth
control has left the country sitting on a demographic
timebomb which has pitted advocates of birth
control against the highly influential church
over its spiralling population.
With a birth rate of 2.4 percent annually the
Philippines could see its population double
from the current 84 million within the next
30 years according to the government's Commission
Struggling to meet its massive debt repayments
and with just over 50 percent of the population
living on less than two dollars a day the Philippines
is already stretched to educate, feed and provide
health services for the population it now has.
While population control did not figure in last
year's presidential election campaign nor was
it included in President Gloria Arroyo's 10
point reform programme, the controversial issue
is now before the nation's Congress.
A private bill, the Responsible Parenthood and
Population Act, proposes to restrict families
to two children, introduce sex education and
enable the distribution of contraceptives.
The legislation has so incensed the Church that
it has threatened not to give Holy Communion
to any government worker promoting the bill.
Monsignor Jesus Dosado of the Ozamiz diocese
on the southern island of Mindanao was quoted
recently saying that any government worker
who promotes what he called "the bill's
anti-life policies" are "not worthy
to receive the body of Christ (Holy Communion)
and will be refused".
"Those who privately support population
control measures will not be denied Communion,
but should in good conscience not present themselves."
Observers say there is no way such a bill will
become law while the church wields its extensive
influence over politicians and policy in the
Philippines. Nor would president Gloria Arroyo,
a devout catholic, dare take on the might of
Rosy Alegria, spokeswoman for the Commission
on Population, said: "Most catholic countries
today leave the issue of birth control to the
elected government. But here in the Philippines
the church still has a very strong voice on
"That voice reflects the late pope's conservative
view on the issue. How the church's stand on
birth control changes with a new pope remains
to be seen."
Commission executive director Tomas Osias said
recently the country urgently needed a population
policy to stop the worsening maternal and child
deaths brought about by unplanned pregnancies
in the country.
The United Nations Population Fund has estimated
that more than 400,000 women put their lives
at risk each year by having abortions, which
are still illegal in the Philippines.
Osias said the Commission was supporting the
bill, which has already passed the House Committee
on Health although has not been officially
endorsed by the government, because it encourages
couples to plan their family size.
Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said that while
the bill's major concern is the two million
Filipino couples in urban and rural slums,
teenagers would also be targeted.
Dayrit said that in educating teenagers, this
would expose them to the use of artificial
contraceptives like condoms and pills.
"We will orient teenagers about the responsibility
of not having children at an early age but
we will not tell them that they are free to
use condoms and contraceptives," said
A survey conducted by the polling group Social
Weather Station last year found about 20 percent
of Filipino women aged between 18-24 admitted
taking contraceptive pills, while two percent
The survey also showed 70 percent of Filipinos
were not using any family planning methods.
Monsignor Hernando Coronel, secretary general
and spokesman of the Catholic Bishops Conference
of the Philippines, said in an interview that
the church would not support any form of artificial
Monsignor Oscar Cruz, archbishop of Ligayen-Dagupan
in the northern province of Pangasinan and
an outspoken critic of artificial birth control,
said: "Contraceptives are a first step
towards killing the unborn and are instruments
that favour abortion."
The secretary of Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu
said the Church perceived the current bill
as being "anti-life" and against
the Fifth Commandment (thou shall not kill)
even if it truly seeks to prevent unwanted
The Catholic Church in the Philippines encourages
families to have as many children as they can
raise and educate well and approves only natural
Whether that view would soften if the successor
to John Paul II as pope softens the conservative
stance on birth control remains to be seen.
<< Agence France-Presse -- 4/4/05 >>
Paul's years of unfulfilled potential
Paul II's Unswerving Orthodoxy Wasted Chance
to Limit HIV Deaths
Divider, Not a Uniter: the Legacy of Pope John
Hard Line on Birth Control Is Demographic Time
Bomb for Philippines
Praise for Pope from AIDS Campaigners
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