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.

Manila (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – Filipino bishops are willing to discuss the country’s controversial the Reproductive Health bill. Mgr Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and other prelates met today in Manila with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the country’s largest organisation of medical practitioners. Mgr Odchimar said the Church wants to consult legal and medical experts in order to find points that can be discussed with the Filipino government and the bill’s backers.

“Since our major line is on morality, we would be enlisting help from the lay people who would be with us representing their specific expertise,” Odchimar said.

The bishops want to tackle the demography, economics, legal and medical aspects of reproductive health, he added.

The debate over the Reproductive Health bill has been going on for the past four years. The draft law bans therapeutic abortion but promotes family planning, urging couples to have only two children. It favours voluntary sterilisation and sanctions medical staff and officials who oppose the law.

The Church and most Catholic associations are against the bill, opting instead for a natural family programme that would spread a culture of responsibility and love based on Christian values.

Not all Catholics are in favour however, of the hard-line position some prelates have adopted. They fear the debate might turn into a headlong collision between the bishops and newly elected President Benino Aquino, who is one of the strongest backers of the family planning bill. Some are also concerned that the law might be adopted despite the opposition of most Filipino Catholics.

In order to facilitate a dialogue between Catholics and the government, members of the PMA have offered their services. “Medical doctors are major stakeholders and front liners in the reproductive health and wellness of our nation,” PMA President Oscar Tinio said. For this reason, “we should be involved in any discussion concerning this issue

Arthur Catli, PMA executive director, highlighted how much his organisation and the Church shared. “The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) is against abortion and so is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). We doctors took an oath to save and protect human life and that definitely includes the unborn child. No doubt the CBCP supports our stand on this,” he wrote.