02/01/2011, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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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.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The highly controversial reproductive health bill was approved on Monday by a committee of the Philippines House of Representatives. In February, it will go to the full house for final adoption. Out of respect for Catholic sensitivities, it has been renamed the ‘responsible parenthood’ bill. Despite Catholic efforts changes agreed to by President Beñino Aquino will not be included. Contentious abortifacient contraceptives will thus be made available. The bishops are against the decision and have announced that they will leave the table of negotiations set up by the government.

In a pastoral letter issued today, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said that whatever bill is adopted, Filipino political leaders must “make a moral choice: to choose life or to choose death”.

For the prelates, the bill approved by the committee “does not respect the moral sense that is central to Filipino cultures. The Bill is the product of the spirit of this world, a secularist, materialistic spirit that considers morality as a set of teachings from which one can choose, according to the spirit of the age.”

The bishops are concerned by the bill’s ambiguity. Whilst ostensibly meant to stop overpopulation and eliminate poverty, it does not address their root causes. In fact, “Our own government statistical office has concluded that there is no overpopulation in the Philippines but only the over-concentration of population in a number of urban centers,” the bishops’ letter said.

In addition, they argue that there is no correlation between population size and poverty. Instead, “flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures” cause poverty.

The letter goes on to say that, they would concentrate their efforts on supporting truth and freedom of conscience and that they would oppose any threat to life and values.

The debate over the reproductive health bill has been going on for the four years now. Whilst against clinical abortion, the bill promotes a family planning approach that would include encouraging couples not to have more than two children, penalising conscientious objection and favouring voluntary sterilisation.

The Catholic Church and Catholic associations are instead in favour of natural family planning, which aims at promoting a culture of responsibility and love based on Christian values in the population. (S.C.)

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