07/17/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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The "no" of the Filipino Church to abortion and family planning policies

by Santosh Digal
On July 25, a protest demonstration will unite the faithful of the entire country, determined to make their voices heard against a proposed law awaiting parliamentary approval. The bishops restate the policy of "defence of life", and threaten to withhold communion from politicians who sign the law.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Next July 25 in the Philippines, a national demonstration will be held with "prayers and marches on behalf of life", to protest the government's proposal to adopt family planning methods and to legalise abortion. The marches will be held in all of the cities, with the participation of priests, sisters, and lay people, who will sing and chant "in defence of life". The initiative is announced by Fr Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the episcopal commission for family and life, who stresses the strong opposition of the Filipino Church to the proposed law, which would legalise abortion. The measure is currently under consideration in the legislative chamber. The faithful in Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Jaro, and the province of Mindanao have expressed their approval for the protests.

Any form of reproductive programme is being compared to abortion, while the president of the Filipino bishops' conference, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, is calling on the bishops to "withhold the sacrament of communion from all those politicians who uphold family planning methods".

The Catholic political leaders of the country are not openly supporting the reforms sought by part of the government, in particular the norm that would permit abortion, but some of them seem to support more sex education in schools and the promotion of family planning methods using contraception. According to an organisation of the United Nations, each year in the Philippines there are 473,000 cases of interruption of pregnancy, while two out of five women who want to use contraception are not able to do so. The population is growing by 2% per year, and is expected to reach 90 million this year. For Anthony Gonzales, spokesman for President Arroyo, the government's policy is founded on four fundamental pillars: respect for life, responsible procreation, spacing of births within the family, and informed consent on the methods of family planning.

According to leaders of the Filipino Church, a distorted vision of sex education poses serious threats to the populations in the villages, and contributes to promoting practices aimed at promiscuity among young people, because they think that the use of condoms protects them from any risk. "The risk", emphasises Fernando Capalla, archbishop of Davao, "is that free access to contraception and the political campaign aimed family planning would lead to an exponential increase in cases of abortion".

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