02/22/2005, 00.00
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Fines and prison terms for not practicing contraception

A committee of the Filipino Congress approved a bill on population control that would fine and sentence violators to prison terms. For Archbishop Capalla, it is a myth to think that having fewer children will bring wealth.

Manila (AsiaNews) – For Mgr Fernando Capalla, Archbishop of Davao and chairman of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the new bill on population control is "unjust, arbitrary, and unreasonable" because it "violates the [. . .] autonomy of couples" and "desecrates the sanctity of marriage".

In his pastoral letter on population control legislation, Archbishop Capalla condemned the "two-child policy" bill that was approved last week by a committee of the Filipino Congress. The goal of the policy is to impose controls on population growth.

"The measure imposes fine and imprisonment for parents, spouses, and health professionals who impede 'sexual and reproductive rights' [i.e. a euphemism for contraception and abortion]," Archbishop Capalla said.

The programme that the bill would set up is called Lingtas Buntis and involves a mass information campaign on fertility control methods and government financial aid to couples who decide to stop at two children.

According to the chairman of the Bishops' Conference, the bill's "premises are all wrong. A long line of serious economists and demographers have long discredited the Malthusian myth that positive population growth stunts economic growth. Modern history has also demolished this myth."

Proof of this can be found in the Philippines's past. "Since a population control program was put in place [. . .] in the 1970s—with billions of public money spent every year to fund it—our population growth has been declining and continues to do so today, and yet, poverty has not been reduced. Official government data attest to this," Archbishop Capalla said.

Lingtas Buntis targets two million men, women, and couples of reproductive age, adolescents 15 to 19 years old, the poor and indigenous communities. Health workers will interview couples, map and make a master list of families after house-to-house, door-to-door, and person-to-person "surveys" on the fertility control methods they used.

But this programme "is not simply what it claims to be: an information campaign," Archbishop Capalla warns. "It violates and mocks the privacy and autonomy of couples and families. It desecrates the sanctity of marriage and family life."

As an alternative to the proposed law, Filipino bishops propose the social doctrine of the Church which suggests a "responsible parenthood that respects the couple's generative functions with due regard for the family's physical, economic, psychological and social conditions".

Archbishop Capalla ends his letter appealing to Christian leaders and lawmakers. "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit you to write or support measures which contradict the basic rights of families".

He calls on parents to "build your family on the rock of Christian generosity and discernment", and on health workers to exercise their "right to conscientious objection. It is both a civic right and a Christian duty to insist on it."

To all the faithful, he asks to "defend the truth. It gives light to our reason, and preserves us from error. Resist the enticements of false "freedoms" and counterfeit "rights." Defend the privacy of the family." (LF)

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See also
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No to contraceptives for birth control, says Archbishop Cruz
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