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Family Planning: Dangers without contraceptives

After a decade of campaigning by global health scientists and civic organisations, the survival of mothers, newborns, and children had finally been embraced as an emergency that demands unprecedented action by all governments.

That has been articulated in a Family Planning Series of the medical journal Lancet (14 July 2012). The articles include “The rebirth of family planning,”  “Making family planning a national development priority,” and “Giving women the power to plan their families.”

A key component of all family planning programs is the use of contraceptives (now recognized in the Millennium Development Goals); for example, in preventing, delaying, or spacing of pregnancy.

Obstacles (e.g., cost of contraceptives, exaggerated fear of side effects, and opposition from spouses), including suggested alternatives to artificial contraception, have resulted in unwanted pregnancies, with heartbreaking consequences — like rampant abortion and maternal death.

The status and outcome of all pregnancies in the developing world in 2008 has been reviewed.  And it shows that nearly 40% of all pregnancies are unintended or unwanted. Of these unwanted pregnancies, 48% end in abortions, 12% end in miscarriages, and   40% in unintended births, with detrimental health and economic effects for many women and their families.

The study is reported by J. Bongaarts & S. Sinding in Population Policy in Transition in the Developing World (Science, 29 July 2011).

The same review says, population growth remains rapid in poor countries. Those with funding support have voluntary family-planning programs, which reduce unplanned pregnancies by (a) giving access to, and information about, contraception and (b) by reducing socioeconomic obstacles to their use.

Further, well-run voluntary programs have shown sustained declines in fertility and population growth across Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. This happens simply by permitting people to realize their individual reproductive goals.

Such programs have proven to be a cost-effective approach to reducing population pressures, improving health, stimulating social & economic transformations, and enhancing adaptation to threats of climate change.

On the opposition side, however, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle recently issued a circular urging the faithful to converge at the Edsa Shrine on Saturday (Aug 4) for a Mass and rally against the RH bill (Inquirer, 3 Aug 2012).

Tagle said, “We also wish to express why we believe the reproductive health bill is not the solution to our many problems as individuals and as a country as it will even give rise to many other problems more pernicious and pervasive than the ones we face in the present.”

Can the good Archbishop support his statement — that the RH bill will give rise to many other problems more than the ones we face today — to refute the studies (examples cited above) on family planning and contraceptives in the developing world?

Note that in his commentary (Inquirer, 5 May 2011), John J. Carroll, S.J., shares this observvation, that from his more than 25 years of pastoral and social work in Payatas, and 7 years of sponsoring natural family planning programs, “I can say that the family is already at great risk and not because of contraceptives.”


Retired Professor of Marine Science,
UP Diliman, florlaca @


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