This letter to the editor appeared in the January 23, 2016 issue of the Inquirer.
This refers to the Inquirer’s Jan. 14 editorial (“Freedom of Informed Choice,” Opinion) which lauds President Duterte’s executive order directing certain government departments to implement the Reproductive Health Act.
It also mentioned the Catholic Church as opposing the passing of the law: “The issue of an official reproductive health policy codified in law had been the subject of an intense, 14-year-long debate and struggle, with the Catholic Church and various so-called ‘prolife’ groups mounting sustained and fierce opposition.”
It thus gives the impression that the Church is against giving mothers and women reproductive health services (e.g., prenatal and postnatal, child-birth) and medical attention to reproductive diseases and fertility problems.
The title of the editorial is very evocative—“Freedom of Informed Choice.” Unfortunately, in many places the phrase “reproductive health” has come to be synonymous with contraception and contraceptives even to the point of not excluding abortion. Just take a look at the so-called reproductive health services of many family planning clinics in countries abroad. These clinics do not end up giving their clients much of a choice; and as Abby Johnson, the once-director of a Planned Parenthood clinic-turned-pro-life advocate, indicated in her book “Unplanned,” they do not inform their clients about the whole truth (about contraceptives and abortion). And so, the women who go to them do not really enjoy the freedom of informed choice.
Ever since Pope Paul VI wrote “Humanae Vitae” in 1968, the Church has taught the world the concept of responsible parenthood, a phrase used by the encyclical. The Church has advocated scientific knowledge of human (more concretely, female) fertility, and the mechanisms of reproduction (for human beings, it is more correct to say procreation), so that the husband and wife can make informed choices (whether to have a child now or later). This scenario seems to be more apt to merit the description of informed choice.
The Church is usually accused as the promoter of women bearing children like rabbits. This is an unfair allegation. The idea of responsible parenthood involves being fully aware of the truth of human sexuality and its biology, and of being in full possession of oneself and one’s powers: very far from being rabbits.
The Church does encourage married couples to have children: a pro-life mentality. Once the opposite, contraceptive mentality has set in, it is very difficult to reverse it. The Italian government recently came up with advertisements encouraging young women to have babies, because their population is receding. The result: the women rejected it, saying that government is intruding into their privacy!
Let’s all work together to give mothers and children all the medical help and attention they need, and let’s try to understand and promote the true meaning of responsible parenthood.