SPONSORS of the family-planning Bill in the Philippines look likely to lose their battle in the face of sustained opposition by the Roman Catholic Church (News, 17 October). The probable watering down of the Bill would leave unanswered the spiralling population growth.
The Reproductive Health Bill, sponsored by the former presidential contender Senator Panflio Lacson and Representative Lagman, has been bitterly opposed by the country’s RC Bishops. This Bill envisages a national family-planning campaign, educational inducements to couples who limit their families to two children, and an aggressive contraceptive- awareness programme.
Its sponsors have argued that, as the Philippines’ population grows at 2.04 million annually, it will reach 100 million by 2015 if unchecked.
The Bill has been supported by international aid organisations, as well as all the country’s Protestant Churches, who have supported it conditional on there being no legalisation of abortion, to which virtually all Christian Churches are opposed.
The government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has stayed neutral; by contrast, the RC bishops have waged a campaign of opposition, which has included rallies, demonstrations, public prayer meetings, and mass lobbying.
All the evidence points to a substantial diminishing in the numbers of Congressmen and women prepared to support the Bill. The sponsors have tacitly acknowledged that their Bill can at best pass into law only in truncated form, but is more likely to fail.
Fr Melvin Castro, head of the RC Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, announced last week that church representatives were in dialogue with certain Congress figures for the purpose of drafting a revised population Bill that would regulate contraceptive sales over the counter, and promote an awareness campaign based on abstinence rather than condom-use.