10/08/2015, 00.00
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Family planning is a good thing, not abortion and contraceptives

by Mathias Hariyadi
Members of the Catholic Church in Indonesia are in favour of government family planning, as long as it promotes “responsible parenthood." Started by Suharto in the 1970s, family planning had fallen by the wayside after 1998. Now the government wants to cut population growth, deemed a burden on the economy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Government family planning (KB*) and birth control programmes are “a good thing, but the Church is opposed to the use of contraceptives and sterilisation proposed by the authorities,” said Fr Aloysius Purwa Hadiwardaya MSF, former dean of the Catholic University of Semarang

The professor of moral theology in Central Java spoke after the current government indicated that it wants to cut population growth to promote the economy. Former President Suharto had promoted family planning during his 32 years of authoritarian rule (1967-1998). His policies included refusing to register the birth of a third child to couples who already two.

For Indonesians, this meant discovering a panoply of contraceptives (condoms, intrauterine devices, contraceptive pills) in the 1970s. For Suharto, the goal was to avoid overpopulation, boost the economy and reduce malnutrition. His success in the achieving the latter was met with an award from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome in 1985.

In 1998, a severe economic crisis drove Suharto from power. Since then, family planning was mothballed until last month, when Surya Chandra Surapaty, head of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN**), described as "alarming" the current population growth rate of 4.5 million per year (+ 1.49 per cent).

With the economy in the doldrums and the national currency plunging, Indonesian authorities believe that 1.1 per cent is the better rate of population growth for the nation’s development.

For Surapaty, family planning is especially suitable for the less developed areas of the country, especially poor fishing communities. “People must return to see contraceptives as something useful, not as a constraint,” the official said.

The president of the Indonesian branch of Bayer pharmaceuticals said that his company would work with BKKBN in order to provide the “right pills, which we have been manufacturing since the 1960s.”

For the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI), family planning is something positive for families, as a way to promote responsible parenthood; however, the Church has always opposed abortion and the use of contraceptives, noting that the sexual act should be “open to life".

"The Church can only accept abstention from natural procreation as a form of birth control, not contraception,” said Fr Matheus Mali, CSsR, a lecturer in the Faculty of Theology, Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, Central Java.

* Keluarga Berencana in Indonesian.

* Badan Kependudukan dan Keluarga Berencana Nasional in Indonesian.

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