You may know that Pope Francis will be embarking upon a five-day trip to the Philippines starting today. What you may not know is that the Philippine government is rounding up street children in the capital city of Manila and putting them in prison, yet His Holiness’ view be sullied by witnessing the end result of what happens when you systematically deny people living in grinding poverty the ability to plan their fertility:
While there are homeless children in the United States, the phenomenon of child beggars, overflowing orphanages, and gangs of abandoned children that are so ubiquitious in poor, overcrowded countries like the Philippines is something that we have not seen in many decades. The presence of so many street children can be blamed squarely on the desire of the Filipino bishops to foster a “culture of life.” Rather than foster “respect for life,” the lack of freely available contraception has merely condemned more women, children, and families to a life of grinding poverty. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the uber Catholic Philippines has the one of the highest birthrate in Asia, and the population could double within thirty years if the current trends remain unchanged.
Perhaps aware of the consequences of uncontrolled population growth in an already impoverished country, the Philippines’ Supreme Court recently cleared a pro-contraception law to go into effect that would allow free contraception to be available at all public health clinics, as well as mandatory sex education classes in the public schools:
As one might expect, this bill was strenuously fought for almost two years by the Catholic church, which continues to hold a great deal of political power and moral influence among the masses in the Philippines. Yet, there is clearly a real desire for contraception among rank-and-file Filipino believers, and if given the opportunity, they would simply ignore the church on this matter like their co-religionists in the West do:
At the time that the above article from the LA Times was written (2012), seventy percent of Filipinos were in the support of the now passed contraception bill. While bishops from the developing world would have us believe that contraception is an evil Western plot to impose libertinism on their innocent flock and that third world women are content to “plop till they drop,” as The Simpsons put it, the reality is that poor women are particularly eager to have control over their fertility, because they see and experience first-hand the hardships caused by having too many children. This sentence from the LA Times article, “At 36, [Yolanda Paz] had more children than teeth, common for poor women after repeated pregnancies and breast-feeding” graphically illustrates the physical and financial effects that excessive childbearing have on poor women in developing countries.
As dire as Ms. Paz’s situation is, at least she and her husband are trying to take care off all of their children. The fate of many poor Filipino children involves abandonment and a life on the streets. The children who are being rounded up in Manila as part of the city’s impromptu “beautification campaign” are being held in filthy detention centers, where they are being starved and subject to the physical and sexual abuse of adult inmates. Once these children are released from custody, it is doubtful that their situation will improve much, as they exist “off the grid” without access to school or other social services.
If Pope Francis will be shielded from the sight of Manila’s street children, he will no doubt also not speak with people like the afore mentioned Yolanda Paz, who are truly suffering because of the Catholic ban on contraception or with the vendors who sell herbal abortion drugs along with crucifixes and statues of the Virgin Mary. The only images the pope will see are those that confirm his belief that the Philippines is a happy, devout Catholic super-majority country where most people adhere to the church’s teachings on birth control.