Philippines to vote on contraception bill
August 9th 2012
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III is facing a test of his policy agenda as lawmakers weigh a controversial reproductive-health bill fiercely opposed by the country’s influential Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The bill under consideration by the Philippines House of Representatives, which drew sizable protests in Manila over the weekend, would seek to bring down the country’s unusually high birthrate by requiring the government to make contraceptives available, among other steps. It would also require officials to provide information on family-planning methods, including helping families determine how many children to have, and provide classes on reproductive health and sexuality in schools.
The topic has long been a combustible one in the Philippines, largely because the Catholic Church opposes family-planning programs that it believes encourage promiscuity and lead to weaker moral values. An estimated 10,000 people rallied against the bill in Manila on Saturday.
“Contraception is corruption,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province in a statement read at the rally. The use of government and taxpayer money to promote contraception is tantamount to corruption, he said, because it makes sex “cheap without responsibility” and “says babies and children are annoying.”
Many economists say the Philippines must bring its birthrate down to get a grip on problems such as poverty and overburdened infrastructure, which have long bedeviled the country of 104 million people. The Philippines has one of Asia’s highest birthrates, with some 25 births per 1,000 people every year. In the U.S., that rate is 13.7.
“There is a population issue in terms of the demand on natural resources—we cannot keep increasing as rapidly as we have been,” said Mary Racelis, a professor at the Philippines’ Ateneo de Manila University.
Affluent couples in the country tend to have fewer than three children on average, she said, but the country’s lowest-income mothers have nearly six on average—a gap that could be narrowed with wider family-planning options. “Poor women [should] have the same advantages of upper middle class women” when it comes to planning advice and contraception, she said.
Read the entire article: The Wall Street Journal
More on this issue: Reproductive health