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Condom debate brought to bishops’ doorstep

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:01:00 03/09/2010

Filed Under: Women, Family planning, Churches (organisations), Health, Diseases

MANILA, Philippines?They came bearing condoms.

Members of a workers group Monday brought the condom debate to the doorstep of Catholic bishops, in a bid to convince the prelates that prophylactics protect the health of women.

Carrying baskets with inflated condoms and flowers, members of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM, Party of Workers) gathered Monday at the gates of the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in Intramuros, Manila, to ask the bishops to bless the rubbers.

But not one of the Catholic bishops was available to meet with PM members. Instead, the group submitted a copy of a position paper supporting the government?s distribution of condoms to curb the spread of HIV-AIDS.

The CBCP continues to object to the program because it believes it encourages promiscuity and weakens the moral fiber of the youth.

PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda said the mass action was timed to coincide with Women?s Day observed worldwide Monday.

?We humbly asked the bishops to bless the condoms as a conciliatory gesture [for everyone] to unite for reproductive health and women?s rights,? Miranda said in a statement.

The group supported the distribution of condoms because it would allow women to space their children and safeguard their health.

Right to health

In its position paper, PM said women, especially the poor, have an unmet need for effective contraception, which remains unfulfilled because of Church opposition.

?Reproductive health is a woman?s [right] yet her choice has always been challenged by institutions based on moral standards,? the PM said.

?Contrary to the Catholic Church?s pronouncements that this is a moral issue, the distribution of condoms to address the spread of HIV-AIDS is a reproductive health concern that should be addressed through widespread education and the provision of appropriate social services,? it added.

Abortion study

PM cited a 2005 study on induced abortion in the Philippines which showed that one out of two married women who did not want children right away or who did not want to have any more children were not using contraceptives.

?This means that women and men want to limit the number of children but do not have the means to do so,? the workers group said.

It added that those in poorer communities could not afford to buy condoms because food took precedence over contraceptives. The price of one condom was the same as a pack of noodles.

The group also accused the Catholic Church and a pro-life group of trying to muddle the issue of condom distribution by discrediting the prophylactics? effectiveness in preventing HIV-AIDS.

Church won?t change

It added that a study showed that condoms were 80-percent effective against HIV-AIDS with constant use and the 20-percent failure rate was because people used them incorrectly.

Sought for comment, CBCP spokesperson Msgr. Pedro Quitorio said the CBCP would not be changing its stand.

?If the Church teaches that contraceptives are immoral, nothing can change that. Not even the vote of the whole country can change that,? he said.

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