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    » 12/12/2012, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES

    Birth control bill goes to the Senate after House approval



    Despite Church and pro-life opposition, the Reproductive Health bill goes through the House. A final vote is expected in the Senate in the coming days. Some bishops attend session to represent civil society. Catholics hold pro-life Masses and prayer vigils across the country. Via twitter, Filipino Christians call on the pope to pray for them.

    Manila (AsiaNews) - On the day dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, protectress of the unborn, the Filipino Congress has voted in second reading in favour of the birth control bill despite the opposition of the Catholic Church and pro-life groups.

    As requested by Catholic bishops, each Member of Congress motivated his or her vote. Various prelates were present at the session, including Mgr Jose Reyes, bishop of Antipolo and head of the Episcopal Council on the family and life. Now it is the turn of the Senate to vote on the bill in second reading.

    According to Filipino media, this is an historic vote for the country. The Reproductive Health Bill 4244 has had to wait 14 years before it could be approved with five major changes and a year of discussions in Congress.

    Millions of Filipinos waited anxiously for the vote. In the coming months, they could be forced to have only two children.

    In the capital and various other cities, anti-bill rallies were held. For the Church, it is the first step towards the legalisation of abortion.

    Card Luis Antonio Tagle celebrated a pro-life vigil in Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine in Makaty (Manila). Processions and Masses have been held in all of the country's parishes.

    Many Filipinos have responded to the first papal message on twitter by appealing to the Holy Father on behalf of their country, calling on him to support through his prayers their battle against abortion and birth control.

    Today, the Bishops' Conference sent a letter to all Members of Congress, urging them to vote according to their conscience, aware that "the truth must be the basis of the law, rather than the result of legislation."

    For the country's prelates, the country does not need birth control regulations, but a new law "to affirm and protect the truth about the dignity of the human person, who has been created in the very image of God; the sanctity of the family, the basic social unit which even our Constitution recognizes as the foundation of the nation."

    After various changes, the bill still does not allow abortion. It does however promote family planning, urging couples to have no more than two children. Although it allows medical staff to opt out on grounds of conscience, it promotes voluntary sterilisation.

    By contrast, the Catholic Church and Catholic associations support Natural Family Programme (NFP), which aims at spreading a culture of responsibility and love based on natural values.

    The bill before Congress has been promoted by big international organisations like the United Nations and UNICEF, who link poverty to a high birth rate. Countries that do not meet their demands lose the right to humanitarian aid.

    According to Jemy Gatdula, today's vote is the "expression of political will" designed to defend personal convictions, not the interests of the people.

    Senator Pia Cayetano and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago have talked about "safe and satisfying sex" as if it were a human right, recognised by international law, when it is not, Gatdula said.

    Since the action program for the 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) was adopted, a large segment of the Filipino left has argued that birth control is a necessary step to avoid the country's collapse, claiming that it had to be adopted in order to receive economic aid from international organisations.

    However, the 1994 conference and those that followed have always referred to indications, not mandatory choices. (S.C.)

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    See also

    01/02/2011 PHILIPPINES
    Pro-abortion law changes name, to be approved over Filipino Catholics’ objections
    The reproductive health bill is renamed the ‘responsible parenthood’ bill but its pro-contraception rules will remain. Bishops say that whatever bill is passed, political leaders must choose between promoting life or death.

    08/08/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Filipino bishops call for education and development, not contraceptives
    Two congressional committees back the Reproductive Health bill, triggering the bishops’ reaction against the ‘pro-abortion” bill. The prelates want the government to come up with policies that focus on “education, agricultural development and help to the poor.”

    07/10/2008 PHILIPPINES
    Filipino bishops urge president to block ‘pro-abortion’ bill
    Bishops’ Conference calls on her to veto Reproductive Health bill if it is approved by Congress. Bill proponents and opponents in legislature claim to be near quorum to get a vote. Church reiterates its view that “abortion is murder.”

    19/05/2011 PHILIPPINES
    Boxer Pacquiao sides with Filipino Church over abortion
    For the boxing champion, the Reproductive Health bill does not solve the country’s problems. Allocations for the bill to pay for free condoms and compulsory sex education are also unwarranted. A source tells AsiaNews that the controversy is creating a rift between the country’s Catholic bishops and the government over elements of the bill.

    07/12/2010 PHILIPPINES
    Filipino bishops seek dialogue on family planning bill
    The Filipino Church is consulting the country’s largest medical association in order to inform the discussion with the government and backers of controversial bill. Shared views on the value of life against abortion emerge from today’s meeting.



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