The population issue has long been dead and buried in developed and most developing countries, including historically Catholic countries. That it continues to be debated heatedly in our country merely testifies to the lack of progress in policy and action. The Catholic Church hierarchy has maintained its traditional stance against modern family planning (FP) methods, particularly modern (also referred to as “artificial”) contraceptives. On the other hand, the State acknowledges the difficulties posed for development by rapid population growth, especially among the poorest Filipinos. But it has been immobilized from effectively addressing the issue by the Catholic hierarchy’s hard-line stance, as well as the tendency of some politicians to cater to the demands of well-organised and impassioned single-issue groups for the sake of expediency. Caught between a hard Church and a soft State are the overwhelming majority of Filipinos who affirm the importance of helping women and couples control the size of their families and the need for government to give budgetary support for modern FP methods.
Renewed impetus to the debate has been given by the public and political interest in the pending bill (HB No. 16) on “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development” (RH Bill, for short). Unfortunately, serious discussion has been hampered by the lack of reliable information and the proclivity of some parties in the debate to use epithets that label the bill as “pro-abortion”, “anti-life”, and “immoral”.
There are a few aspects of the bill to which some groups have expressed strong objections, which we can understand. Among these are whether the State should subsidize family planning by the unmarried; whether reproductive health and sex education in public schools should be compulsory, and at what grade-level it should start. Moreover, the notion of two children being the “ideal family size” (Section 13 of the RH Bill) may be difficult to defend.
But the main thrust of the bill – “enabl(ing) couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to carry out their decisions” – is something we strongly and unequivocally support.
In what follows, we explain why.
Read full text ( in .pdf, 7pp).