Is Catholic Church’s influence in Philippines fading?

Photo by Dondi Tawatao via bbc.com

Photo by Dondi Tawatao via bbc.com

via bbc.com – The Catholic church plays a powerful role in the Philippines but last month it lost a significant battle in its bid to prevent a government-backed family planning programme. Aurora Almendral asks if the church is losing its grip on the islands.

In the last five years, Jennievic Betana, who is just 24 years old, has been pregnant four times.

She lives with her three surviving children in a small, crumbling cement-block house together with two brothers and husband, Buboy, in the vast slum of Bagong Silang in northern Manila.

Buboy, a barber, earns about 300 pesos (£4, $7) a day, two-thirds of which goes to feeding the family. The burden of the extra mouths to feed is considerable.

To avoid adding to their family, Jennievic and her husband rely on the calendar method, an arrangement that nevertheless resulted in the last two unplanned pregnancies.

A practising Catholic, Jennievic knows that contraception is a sin in the eyes of the church, but says she is willing to take the spiritual risk for more immediate financial concerns.

“I want to use birth control,” Jennievic says, “but after paying for food, electricity and water, there’s nothing left. I’ll use it, even though I know it’s a sin.

“If [the Church] were to help us once the children are here, then sure, I’ll have more children. But they don’t.”

Jennievic’s story is typical of many in the Philippines which has one of the highest population growth rates in Asia.

Currently, the country is adding nearly two million people every year to its 100-million-strong population. This is putting a massive strain on resources, especially for the poorest among whom much of the recent growth has been concentrated.

There is also the issue of illegal abortions, of which there are an estimated 600,000 a year. Some 90,000 of the women having these procedures are later hospitalised and about 1,000 die.

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