Philippines Pro-Life Groups, Catholic Leaders Oppose Reproductive Health Bills

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 14, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Philippines Pro-Life Groups, Catholic Leaders Oppose Reproductive Health Bills

by Seana Cranston, JD
October 14, 2010 Note: Seana Cranston writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication and is used with permission.

Manilla, Philippines ( — Protests loom in the Philippines as Catholic leaders and lay groups monitor bills that would enact national population control measures.

Two measures pending in the Philippines promote “reproductive health.” They mandate dispensing artificial birth control, including potential abortifacients. Both bills contain substantially similar language.

The bills require the state to guarantee universal access to reproductive health care services, methods, devices, and supplies — not only for adults but also for adolescents and children. Both bills promote “modern” methods of family planning, including birth control pills, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), injectables, and condoms.

In a country where medicines and services for ministering to serious diseases prove too expensive for many, the bills categorize “family planning supplies” as “essential medicines.”

The bills subject Filipino children in all schools to mandatory “age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education.” This would include children in Catholic schools.

The Senate bill claims it does not dictate any form of population control, saying it instead helps parents to “exercise their right to freely and responsibly plan the number and spacing of their children.” Yet the House version has a section entitled “ideal family size,” which says that two children per family is the ideal, and that the State should encourage this concept.

The Senate version cites various international treaties and international commitments by the Philippines in its support, stating that they protect the right to health, including sexual and reproductive freedom.

In response, Catholic leaders in the Philippines say they may engage in civil disobedience. The bishops support protests by Philippine citizens against the bills, according to a public statement by the Philippine Bishops’ Conference.

During a recent visit to the United States, the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, reportedly said he personally supports the distribution of artificial contraceptives for regulating population. This led the head of the Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life to declare that the U.S. government influenced President Aquino’s decision to support population control.

Many of the reproductive health and population control measures in the bills have long been part of government policy. Government funding and grants from foreign private and institutional donors have supported them, even without “reproductive health” legislation in place, said Jo Imbong, an attorney with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

The Philippines recently received a $1.2 million grant from the UN Population Fund for reproductive health projects in rural areas. In September, President Aquino and U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton signed a compact in New York during the UN summit that directs $434 million in development funds to the Philippines. A press release says the money will fund poverty reduction, including community development projects.

Previous efforts to pass population control and reproductive health bills, some of which included a proposed two-child policy, have failed in the Philippines. The country has also suffered relentless external pressure to decriminalize its laws on abortion, Ms. Imbong said. The 1987 Philippine Constitution protects the unborn from conception, and provides no exception.


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