by John L Allen Jr on Jul. 03, 2009 Rome NCR Today
In the run-up to President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated July 10 meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, an influential cardinal and Vatican adviser has praised Obama’s “humble realism” and compared the president’s approach to abortion to the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas and early Christian tradition about framing laws in a pluralistic society.
In that regard, Cottier wrote, the recent murder of an abortion doctor in the United States illustrates that even the highest values can be become “marching orders at the disposition of an aberrant ideology.”
With regard to Obama’s Cairo speech to the Islamic world, Cottier praised it as a “radical reject of the thesis of a clash of civilizations and an antidote to the tendency to apply negative stereotypes to others.” He compared Obama’s approach to international relations to that of John Paul II in the emphasis upon forgiveness and “purification of memory.” (This has also been defined as transcending or working through historical trauma.)
The Philippines is a case in point. They have highly restrictive access to family planning and birth control ---depending on the local situation. In the capital city of Manila there is virtually no access or state funded birth control. Manila is not unique. It is estimated that Philippines women undergo 500,000 abortions a year with 80,000 winding up in hospitals due to complications from back alley abortions. Ten women a day die in child birth. The population of the Philippines is 80 million. That's a lot of abortions for a population of 80 million since the numbers of women of child bearing age would be less than a third of that total.
In spite of the Roman Catholic Church's strong opposition it appears HB 5048, a national women's re productive bill including far better access to birth control and sex education, might actually make it to the desk of President Macapagal-Arroyo. It is expected she will not sign it, but let it pass into law without action on her part. She is a devout Roman Catholic who has admitted to using birth control to limit the size of her own family but supports the Church's position. She admits to having confessed her sin in order to be fully back in the Church.
Access to birth control was not a problem for her. It isn't for the wealthy. For poor women the choices are abortion or tubal ligation.
It has taken 40 plus years for a reproductive rights bill to make it this far in the Philippines. One of the key reasons cited for the majority support this bill enjoys amongst Filipino voters is the reduction in influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Real people with real children who actually have to pay the price for the size of their families no longer listen to a Church hierarchy which is considered mired in conservatism. The back lash from continual Church interference in reproductive legislation may be coming home to roost.
HB 5048 does not change the legal status of abortion. This is not a bill about abortion. It is first and foremost a bill about reducing abortion. Birth Control and sex education have proven track records in reducing the number of abortions. It's called reproductive choice. Insistence on Natural Family Planning and abstinence is called religious reproductive tyranny. They have a proven track record of increasing abortions. They prove Thomas Aquinas's thinking about the futility of enacting laws people determine they can't obey.
It seems to me the Church has to do some serious thinking about the impact of it's anti birth control stance on it's desire to end abortion. When one stance fuels the other it's time to decide which should have the priority. It would seem to me allowing birth control as an abortion prevention measure is a no brainer, but that might not be the real issue. The real issue for the Church might not have anything to do with responsible moral reproduction and every thing to do with Institutional authority and Papal infallibility. If that's true, then the real issue in the Philippines (and every place else) has never been the sanctity of life. It's been the sanctity of religious authority. Maybe it's time some of those religious authorities spent some time on a Manila dump.