On July 27, 2014, the Philippines welcomed the birth of baby Chonalyn, the 100 millionth Filipino alive. She was greeted by a group of well-wishers, blinding camera flashes, and a delicious cake. Gifts for the baby’s basic needs such as onesies, cloth diapers, beddings, and towels were given to her, including a framed certificate recognizing her as the “100 millionth Pinoy baby.”
According to the World Population Review, the Philippines is the 12th most populated country in the world, with a growth rate of 1.89% per year, yet abortion remains illegal. In a profoundly Catholic country, the Philippines value the gift of life.
Filipinos believe that God is the giver of life and He is the only one who has the right to take it.
In fact, in a country which, like the United States, is a representative democracy, the Constitution of 1987 guarantees the protection for “the life of the unborn from conception.” Filipinos uphold the sacredness of human life and safeguard this life from conception to natural death. Catholic bishops advocate natural methods and abstinence as the only form of contraception and methods other than those approved by the Vatican are considered abortion, which is against the very basis of the country’s faith. The government of the Philippines imposes an all-encompassing ban on abortion, which is considered one of the most restrictive laws in the world. However, abortion may legally be performed to save the pregnant woman’s life.
For more than a decade, the Roman Catholic Church opposed the Reproductive Health Bill, which provides a national policy on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health.
Under the Reproductive Health bill, which eventually was signed into law, Filipinos will have access to methods of contraception, fertility control, sex education, and maternal care. Legislators believe that the country is overpopulated, one of the reasons why many Filipinos are living in poverty, and that this problem should be addressed by the government.
When I attended a Sunday Mass in the Philippines, the priest said in his homily that there is no overpopulation in the country. We have many vacant lands which can be used as residential areas. Many Filipinos leave their comfortable lives in the province to try their luck in the city, thinking that the grass is greener there, but in reality, the city is already congested and job opportunities are limited. When they fail to get a job and have no money to pay for food and rent, they often end up living on the streets, adding to the number of poor families living in the city.
However, Filipinos do not resort to abortion or any other artificial contraception to limit population growth. A baby is conceived for a purpose. We many not yet know what purpose it is, but God has His great plans for every conception. What if the child a woman is carrying would be the country’s next president or great crusader? We may never know the answer if the baby is deprived of his or her chance to live.
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By Joyce C. Dimaculangan