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Opposition hopes to see off Bill

27 November 2008

by Vincent McKee

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.

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