90 million plus 1.5 million unwanted babies every year

07 January 2009

There are about 3 million pregnancies in the Philippines every year, and half of them are unwanted, according to a UN population report. That's about 1.5 million souls born every year who are considered burdens. The obvious solution -- the implementation of measures to curb population growth -- is not quite a straightforward undertaking in a society dominated by a Roman Catholic Church officialdom that practices a particularly medieval flavour of dogmatism.

For most countries, the problem has become quite simple. If there are too many mouths to feed and you only rake in so much, then you need to either rake in more, or reduce your commitments (such as runaway production of those mouths to feed).

A lot of societies find the first option -- to rake in more -- a bit challenging. So the choice is pretty clear as this sign from a Malawi health clinic shows:

Not that simple in the Philippines.

What very little good intentions reside in the hearts of Filipino politicians rarely translate to real outcomes.

Due to the church's strong opposition, a Congress bill promoting sex education, the use of contraceptives and accessible birth control medical services on the national level, has never gone out of the House of Representatives since the introduction of its first draft in 1988.

The church branded the bill as "anti-life" and said it would promote abortion.

Lawmakers vying for a stable political career were reluctant to ire the church by openly and aggressively promoting birth control and family planning. Thus many remained private supporters of the controversial bill.

It is ironic that the mantra of the the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is "pro-God, pro-Life, pro-Family, No to Death bills, No to RH (Reproductive Health) bills" (referring to a bill currently being debated in Congress). The same UN study reported that 10 Filipino women die everyday in childbirth. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of Filipino children who live on streets, subsist on one or two meals a day, scavenge on garbage dumps, and are living in single or no-parent households because their parents are employed overseas.

Half of an entire generation of Filipinos touted as the "hope" of the country is being born unwanted.

Catholicism basically promises everything in death and nothing in life. So there is something not quite consistent in the way it plays a role in the lives of Filipinos, particularly Filipino women, a sentiment where a few are now boldly going where no Filipino had gone before. Specifically, snippets of such sentiments have popped up all over the Net:

The traditions of the Catholic Church most especially in the Philippines have not moved beyond the Copernican age simply because the people in power have used the Church itself to mis-educate the people.

Even as Fr. Joaquin Bernas struggles to choose his words carefully as he mounts a monumental effort to position his Church on even ground in this debate, there is an easier vantage point to take. The underlying concept of what it means to be a responsible person is encapsulated in this simple statement that describes why many individuals and many societies remain imprisoned in poverty:

We locked ourselves into commitments beyond any inherent ability in us to honour them.

Having kids is a commitment with very simple economic underpinnings. When regarding such a commitment, we should think twice about deferring to dogma and traditions that have no proven track record of serving its adherents well.

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