09/15/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Manila, Catholic vigil against pro-abortion law

by Santosh Digal
The activists of the Commission on Family and Life have launched a show of force in front of congress, where the law is under discussion. Its supporters say that it is necessary "to control demographic growth"; experts emphasize that the numbers "are in decline", and do not justify the law.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The activists of the Commission on Family and Life have called for a three-day vigil at the house of representatives to protest the possible approval of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law, now pending in congress.

The demonstration began today, and will permit the group to follow closely the parliamentary debate on RH, and its possible developments. According to the Filipino bishops, a deep divide is being created between the Catholic Church and the parliamentarians, who seem intent on approving the law, while the question deserves being brought "under observation".

Fr Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission on Family and Life, recalls the campaign to gather signatures against RH launched by the Church, and does not conceal his astonishment over the "constant request for funding on the part of parliamentarians" to move RH forward, and "to arrest the process of demographic growth", when even one of the "leading experts on this matter" admits that for various years, "the country has in fact registered a reversal in the trend", and the numbers on childbirth are "in decline". He calls upon Catholics not to commit the same error that other majority Catholic countries have made by approving laws on abortion: passage of the bill "would only show the weakening of the Catholic faith", emphasizing to what extent "the conditions of prosperity can become the cause of alienation from God", as has taken place in various European nations with traditionally Christian roots. For this reason, economic development cannot ignore respect for Catholic values and ideals.

The promoters of RH, for their part, say they enjoy the support of "a large majority of the country", and call upon the leaders of the local Church "to listen to the new demands of the people" if they do not wish to lose the "consensus of the faithful". They also express their hope of concluding the parliamentary process soon, and approving the law by the end of the year, citing a survey according to which "92% of Filipinos believe it is important to mitigate fertility and plan their family".

Catholic leaders reject the survey, saying that it "does not represent" the desires of the people, and they denounce "interpretive errors" and confusion over crucial elements of RH. Above all, about the legalization of abortion, which the promoters of the law say is not part of the legislation, while it is forcefully condemned by the Church.

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