Philippines defies church to push family planning

Tue Oct 2, 2012 6:37pm EDT
 
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By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino is squaring off against his country's powerful Catholic church in a bid to give people free access to the means to limit the size of their families.

The predominately Catholic country has one of Asia's fastest-growing populations together with significant levels of chronic poverty. While neighbors have accelerated towards prosperity, the Philippines has lagged.

Economists say high population growth is a primary factor for that, but the church disagrees. It says population growth is not a cause of poverty and that people need jobs, not contraception.

Aquino, a Catholic like 80 percent of the population, has thrown his support behind a reproductive health bill that will, if passed by the two houses of Congress, guarantee access to free birth control and promote sex education.

That's something that Liza Cabiya-an might have benefited from, if she'd had the opportunity.

Cabiya-an, 39, has 14 children. The oldest is 22, the youngest just 11 months. Their home is a hut in a Manila slum.

"It's tough when you have so many children," said Cabiya-an, a shy smile revealing poor teeth. "I have to count them before I go to sleep to make sure no one's missing."

At one time Cabiya-an had access to contraception but Manila mayor Jose Atienza, a devout Catholic, swept contraceptives from the shelves of city-run clinics in 2000.   Continued...

 
Liza Cabiya-an, a 39-year-old housewife with 14 children aged between 22 and 11 months, eats bread dipped in coffee, with some of her children at a cramped shanty in Manila September 12, 2012. Pitting himself against the teachings of the country's powerful Catholic church, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, a Catholic like 80 percent of the population, has thrown his support behind a reproductive health bill that will, if passed, guarantee access to free birth control and promote sex education. Picture taken September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Erik De Castro