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Aquino eases up on reproductive health bill

By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:07:00 03/05/2010

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Benigno Aquino III, Religion & Belief, Family planning, Legislation

DUMAGUETE CITY?From the reproductive health bill a few months ago, Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III has taken a more nuanced stand on the issue as the Catholic Church ratchets up its campaign against artificial contraception.

In a press conference here, Aquino clarified that he never was an author of the reproductive health bill and the Senate secretariat has certified to that.

He said artificial contraception was a matter of choice and conscience and that health professionals who ?fool? people into using artificial contraceptives should be penalized.

As a Catholic, Aquino said he himself was not promoting artificial contraception but believes that the government should be able to provide it to Filipinos who ask for it.

?Let me reiterate, I?m a Catholic, I?m not promoting it. My position is more aptly called responsible parenthood rather than reproductive health,? Aquino said.

?The only advocacy that we have is that the state is obligated to remind parents that you have responsibilities for every child you bring into this world. You have to clothe them, you have to shelter them and, in the Philippine context, you have to educate them also,? he said.

Nobody can argue that the country was having problems of ?taking care of its youth? due to the population rate, Aquino said.

?There?s a lack of classrooms. There?s something like 600,000 youth who are at risk of diseases that can be prevented if they had gotten their inoculations,? he said.

However, he said it is not for government to say on how many children parents should have or to hinder their freedom of choice.

?As to how much or how big a family is, the state has no right to tell parents how many children they should bring into the world,? he said.

?They will be the ones who will know their strength as well as their weaknesses. They will be in the best position to determine it,? he said.

It should also be left to the parents to choose what method of birth control they should use if they decide to plan their family, Aquino said.

He said medical health workers who trick people into using artificial contraceptives when these are against their conscience should be penalized.

He said this was one of the questions he had wanted to ask if the debates on the RH bill had proceeded.

?There should be penal sanctions on the persons who force, who mislead, who misinform people into using it,? Aquino said.

?But if they made an informed decision, if they decide based on their conscience that there is nothing wrong with doing it and they do not have the ability to afford it, then the state can intervene,? he said.

Aquino noted that there were churches that, unlike the Catholic Church, approve of artificial contraception.

?In the seminars that we envision, which will remind parents of their responsibilities, various churches will be invited to [inform the] value system and consciences of those undergoing the seminar. That more appropriately describes my responsible parenthood position,? Aquino said.

But for those parents who choose to use artificial birth control and have no means to carry it out, the state should help them out ?rather than take the opposite position,? he said.

?[If] they have unwanted children that they cannot take care of, I think I will err in favor of the child that will not be attended to rather than the criticism I will get from the more conservative elements of my church,? Aquino said.

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