Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Philippines Family Planning Fight

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager
Oh Vatican.

For an organization that does a huge amount of good (nuns advocating for poor people, for example), the Catholic Church sure can gum up the works on what should be noncontroversial reproductive health issues.

(Disclosure: I used to be a practicing Catholic. My husband and I planned on getting married in the church. But after 40 hours of premarital education – including a “natural family planning” seminar – we were told to leave if we didn’t agree with all of their stances. So we did.)

The latest front in the Vatican-fueled culture war is in the Philippines. You see, the Philippines has a big problem: Dying women. In fact, its maternal mortality rates have skyrocketed – from 162 deaths per 100,000 in 2006 to 221 per 100,000 in 2011. Not good.

What’s one of the best ways to cut maternal mortality? Make sure women only get pregnant when they want to. So the Philippines hopes to invest about $12 million in contraception this year.

 Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Manila (Salim Photography)
Hope is the operative word here. The Catholic Church – an extremely powerful force in a nation that’s more than 80% Catholic – is in the midst of an intense lobbying campaign to kill a reproductive health care bill that would allocate money for contraceptives and provide sex education for the nation’s children. The church’s objections all center around one argument: Contraception is immoral. You know the drill.

"The statistics and acronyms mean little to women like Irish Gili, 31, a mother of eight who had just delivered her latest baby at Fabella (Hospital). She has never had access to family planning advice, much less free contraceptives. She nearly died while delivering her seventh child, but found herself pregnant again, barely a month after giving birth."

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