ONTD Political

Passage of contraceptives law in Philippines shows times have changed for Catholic church

10:49 pm - 01/04/2013
MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-six years after Roman Catholic leaders helped his mother marshal millions of Filipinos in an uprising that ousted a dictator, President Benigno Aquino III picked a fight with the church over contraceptives and won a victory that bared the bishops’ worst nightmare: They no longer sway the masses.

Aquino last month signed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 quietly and without customary handshakes and photographs to avoid controversy. The law that provides state funding for contraceptives for the poor pitted the dominant Catholic Church in an epic battle against the popular Aquino and his followers.

A couple with links to the church filed a motion Wednesday to stop implementation of the law, and more petitions are expected. Still, there is no denying that Aquino’s approval of the legislation has chipped away at the clout the church has held over Filipinos, and marked the passing of an era in which it was taboo to defy the church and priests.

Catholic leaders consider the law an attack on the church’s core values — the sanctity of life — saying that contraceptives promote promiscuity and destroy life. Aquino and his allies see the legislation as a way to address how the poor — roughly a third of the country’s 94 million people — manage the number of children they have and provide for them. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the Philippines are unwanted, according to the U.N. Population Fund, and a third of those end up aborted in a country where abortion remains illegal.

Rampant poverty, overcrowded slums, and rising homelessness and crime are main concerns that neither the church nor Aquino’s predecessors have successfully tackled.

“If the church can provide milk, diapers and rice, then go ahead, let’s make more babies,” said Giselle Labadan, a 30-year-old roadside vendor. “But there are just too many people now, too many homeless people, and the church doesn’t help to feed them.”

Labadan said she grew up in a God-fearing family but has defied the church’s position against contraceptives for more than a decade because her five children, ages 2 to 12, were already far too many for her meager income. Her husband, a former army soldier, is jobless.

She said that even though she has used most types of contraceptives, she still considers herself among the faithful. “I still go to church and pray. It’s a part of my life,” Labadan said.

“I have prayed before not to have another child, but the condom worked better,” she said.

The law now faces a legal challenge in the Supreme Court after the couple filed the motion, which seems to cover more ideological than legal grounds. One of the authors of the law, Rep. Edcel Lagman, said Thursday that he was not worried by the petition and expected more to follow.

“We are prepared for this,” he said. “We are certain that the law is completely constitutional and will surmount any attack on or test of its constitutionality.”

Over the decades, moral and political authority of the church in the Philippines is perceived to have waned with the passing of one its icons, Cardinal Jaime Sin. He shaped the role of the church during the country’s darkest hours after dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law starting in 1972 by championing the cause of civil advocacy, human rights and freedoms. Sin’s action mirrored that of his strong backer, Pope John Paul II, who himself challenged communist rulers in Eastern Europe.

Three years after Aquino’s father, Benigno Aquino Sr., a senator opposing Marcos, was gunned down on the Manila airport tarmac in 1983, Sin persuaded Aquino’s widow, Corazon, to run for president. When massive election cheating by Marcos was exposed, Sin went on Catholic-run Radio Veritas in February 1986 to summon millions of people to support military defectors and the Aquino-led opposition. Marcos fled and Aquino, a deeply religious woman, was sworn in as president.

Democracy was restored, but the country remained chaotic and mired in nearly a dozen coup attempts. The economy stalled, poverty persisted and the jobless were leaving in droves for better-paying jobs abroad as maids, teachers, nurses and engineers. After Aquino stepped down, the country elected its first and only Protestant president, Fidel Ramos. He, too, opposed the church on contraceptives and released state funds for family planning methods.

Catholic bishops pulled out all the stops in campaigning against Ramos’ successor, popular movie actor Joseph Estrada, a hero of the impoverished masses who made little attempt to keep down his reputation for womanizing, drinking and gambling.

But few heeded the church’s advice. Estrada was elected with the largest victory margin in Philippine history. Halfway through his six-year presidency, in January 2001, he was confronted with another “people power” revolt, backed by political opponents and the military, and was forced to resign.

His successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, styled herself as a devout Catholic and sought to placate the church by abolishing the death penalty and putting brakes on the contraceptives law, which languished in Congress during her nine years in power.

It mattered little. Arroyo’s mismanagement and corruption scandals set the stage for Aquino’s election on a promise to rid the Philippines of graft, fix the economy and lift millions out of poverty. The scion of the country’s democracy icon took power several years after Sin’s death, but it was a different era in which the church was battered by scandals of sexual misconduct of priests and declining family values.

The latest defeat of the church “can further weaken its moral authority at a time when this is most badly needed in many areas, including defense of a whole range of family values,” said the Rev. John J. Carroll, founding chairman of the Jesuit-run John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues. He said he wondered how many Catholics have been “turned off” by incessant sermons and prayers led by the church against the contraceptives law, and how much it contributed to rising anticlericalism and the erosion of church authority.

“People today are more practical,” said Labadan, the street vendor. “In the old days, people feared that if you defy the church, it will be the end of the world.”

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Source

OP note: I am very happy that this passed and even my very religious Filipino-Catholic mother has been saying for years that birth control should be freely available in the Philippines because while children are lovely and a can bring you joy they also require things like food and shelter, things that cost money, and in a country filled with very poor people it would make sense to not have five or more children if you can help it.
ultrasushi 5th-Jan-2013 04:37 am (UTC)
Damn, finally!
wikilobbying 5th-Jan-2013 05:33 am (UTC)
“I have prayed before not to have another child, but the condom worked better,” she said.

and fuck whoever judges you for that, enough said.
tabaqui 5th-Jan-2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
THIS.
moonshaz 6th-Jan-2013 05:34 am (UTC)
SO fucking much.
tsu_ 5th-Jan-2013 07:08 am (UTC)
“If the church can provide milk, diapers and rice, then go ahead, let’s make more babies,”

needs to be CC'ed to crazy republicans/anti-choicers
moonbladem 5th-Jan-2013 07:19 am (UTC)
“People today are more practical,” said Labadan, the street vendor. “In the old days, people feared that if you defy the church, it will be the end of the world.”

And yet, the world still spins. Good on you guys! About time too.
hinoema 5th-Jan-2013 08:40 am (UTC)
“If the church can provide milk, diapers and rice, then go ahead, let’s make more babies,” said Giselle Labadan, a 30-year-old roadside vendor. “But there are just too many people now, too many homeless people, and the church doesn’t help to feed them.”

You go, Lady. The whole endless procreation thing by the Church is just a tool to maintain a permanent impoverished (and gullible) class anyway.
zinnia_rose 5th-Jan-2013 10:17 am (UTC)
This is such good news. The women quoted in the article are awesome.
caketime 5th-Jan-2013 10:54 am (UTC)
Yessss. :D

My fam (very religious catholic Filipinos) and are all very liberal about birth control. I think Filipinos generally tend to be more practical (you've got to be if you've got mouths to feed jfc).
callmetothejedi 5th-Jan-2013 12:22 pm (UTC)
This makes me happy. :)
tabaqui 5th-Jan-2013 03:53 pm (UTC)
YAY! Another country seeing that they need to be *practical* and yes, scientific about things. The church - any church - has NO business making state policy. Good on them!
violetrose 6th-Jan-2013 01:59 pm (UTC)
I'm glad poor women in the Philippines will now have easier access to birth control. I do wonder if the abortion law will ever be challenged - but for now, I imagine the President is probably just glad he could get the contraceptive measure passed.

It is interesting that a few countries that have traditionally been heavily Catholic are now liberalising their laws regarding contraception and abortion. Uruguay was a recent case; they legalised abortion in the first 11 weeks, although admittedly by a very small margin.
tcpip 7th-Jan-2013 03:25 am (UTC)
Good news indeed. Now, will the Church change?
biting_moopie 7th-Jan-2013 03:15 pm (UTC)
Excellent news!

“I have prayed before not to have another child, but the condom worked better,” she said.

A++++++

Thanks for posting this.
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