The government today presented the Philippine Family Planning Program (1990-1994) before a panel of bishops designated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a dialogue arranged at the request of President Aquino. The CBCP panel was headed by Bishop Varela and had Bishops Bacani, Claver, Quevedo and Cariño as well as Father San Juan as members. The government panel was headed by Secretaries Bengzon and Estanislao, with Undersecretary Taguiwalo of DOH, Dr. Corazon Raymundo of UPPI and Dr. Rebecca Ramos of Fabella Memorial Hospital as members.
The government presentation covered the principles which guide the Family Planning Program as well as the implementation details that will operate in the field. The discussions that followed were serious, substantive and amicable. Premised on the varying roles of the Church and the government, there was a meeting of minds although further discussions are clearly needed. In sum, all agreed that the Program is in substantive consonance with the following points:
The Program endeavors to respect the freedom of conscience of individuals and particularly of married couples. It is also reassuring that the freedom of conscience of health care providers is being respected.
The Program limits itself to married couples of reproductive age who of their own accord, based on their conscience have decided to manage their fertility guided by their religious beliefs and morals. The Program will not be undertaken to reduce fertility or population growth.
The Program limits itself to couples who within the context of family life wish to space or limit births for objective reasons. The Program excludes abortion including the prevention of a fertilized ovum from reaching full maturity, and fertility management of unmarried individuals.
The means allowed under the Program are limited to what is legally available in the Philippines. Abortion being illegal, any practice found to lead to or to induce abortion would also be deemed illegal on the basis of medical evidence evaluated by government authorities.
The means allowed, which include natural family planning, IUD’s, sterilization and oral contraceptive pills, are made available to those who opt for them. If any of these methods are determined to be abortifacient, they will be disallowed.
The Church reiterates its objections to contraception and sterilization and expresses its reservations about the moral acceptability of certain aspects of the Program. But in a pluralistic society and recognizing the freedom of those who disagree with Church principles, the Church respects the government’s toleration of other means that the conscience of others may not object to and that the law on abortion does not forbid. Nonetheless, the Church seeks a greater emphasis on natural family planning as consistent with moral teachings and religious beliefs.
All parties agreed that further discussions are desirable and necessary. In addition, a mechanism for consultation would be established providing for an annual dialogue on the implementation of the Program, and a defined procedure for looking into and correcting problems and violations that occur in the field. In this regard, it was emphasized that the consistently with which the principles are followed by the Program in the field, including the participating nongovernment organizations (NGOs), was regarded by all as a matter of quality assurance and a measure of sincerity.
(Sgd)+JESUS Y. VARELA, D.D.
Chairman on the Church/Government Dialogue on Family Planning
Episcopal Commission on Familly Life
August 14, 1990