Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) - "This vote leads us to further commit the Church, specifically the Archdiocese of Manila to the service of the poor, of the family, of women, of infants and children," said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in a communiqué released this morning on the website of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines in response to the 'yes' vote by the Philippines House of Representatives to the Reproductive Health bill. The bill is expected to go to the Senate for final approval next week.
In the name of economic development and safe sex, the new law would require couples to have no more than two children. It would also commit the state to promoting contraceptives, abortion pills and voluntary sterilisation. In his message to Filipino Catholics, Card Tagle described as 'tragic' this morning's vote. Still, calling for unity, he said the Church would not concede defeat in its fight against the bill.
In the future, the Church and the Christian community "will work harder to promote the sanctity of human life and of the human person, the integral education of the youth, the access of the poor to social and medical services, the preservation of the true meaning of marriage, and stewardship of creation," the cardinal said.
In his statement, the archbishop praised the lawmakers as well as the lay people and organisations who "worked hard and tirelessly in a variety of ways to expose the flaws" of the measure as well as "to form consciences and to contribute to the search for the common good."
After various changes, the bill approved by the House still bans abortion, but promotes family planning, including favouring couples who have no more than two children. It does allow medical staff to opt out on grounds of conscience but also encourages voluntary sterilisation.
The Catholic Church and Catholic associations are instead in favour of the Natural Family Programme (NFP), which aims at spreading a culture of responsibility and love based on natural values.
Big international organisations like the United Nation and UNICEF, which link poverty to a high birth rates, have backed the new legislation.
Countries that do not adhere to their views lose the right to humanitarian aid.