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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pope Francis is Sending the Wrong Message about Contraception in the Philippines

More than two years ago, I noted that the government of the Philippines was about to implement a law providing subsidized access to birth control to couples, and to encourage the teaching of sex education in schools. The Roman Catholic Church was opposed to this, but the law passed anyway. This is, in fact, what the Philippines needs if it is going to avoid an economic implosion from its population explosion. The average Filipina is giving birth to 3 children, almost all of whom will survive to adulthood. The UN Population Division projects that the population of the country could go from its current 102 million to nearly 160 million by mid-century--and that assumes a fertility decline that the government is trying to promote. Yet, there is Pope Francis--who has done a lot of good for the Catholic Church in other respects--reiterating the tired anti-contraceptive message, as reported by the Guardian:
In advance of a vast rally on Sunday that could draw as many as 6 million people, the pope called on families to be “sanctuaries for respect for life”, and praised the church for maintaining its opposition to modern birth control, even if all Catholics could not live by such rules. 
“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” he said.
The remarks were seen as a direct response to a health law that was signed in the Philippines in 2013 by President Benigno Aquino. The legislation, which was opposed by local Catholic officials, established sex education for schoolchildren and adults and also subsidised birth control for women.
The government of the Philippines has gotten real about its demographic dilemma. The Pope would do well to do the same. The 19th century ideas of Malthus that people should abstain from intercourse before marriage, and not marry until they could afford to have all the children God will provide, did not sit well in Malthus's time, and they aren't any more relevant here in the 21st century. 

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