May 8, 2012
I recently stumbled across a CNN interview with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines called "A Prophylactic to Poverty." Not surprisingly, the premise of the piece is that easier, less stigmatized access to contraception would curb the Philippines’ poverty problem. To begin the interview, CNN’s Anna Coren coldly states, as if it were an uncontestable fact, “One of the big reasons that there is poverty in this country (Philippines) is the lack of contraception or that contraception is not allowed.” She adds just as matter-of-factly, “And, the Church at the end of the day is responsible for this.”
Fortunately, President Aquino quickly points out that the interviewer’s basic assumptions are wrong. He calmly states that contraception is not illegal and is readily available in the Philippines. He also retorts, “The Church does not make the laws in this country.” He is right on all counts. Contraceptive Prevalence (CP), the most common stat used to measure accessibility and use of artificial birth control, is over 50% in the Philippines. And, the Philippines is by no means a theocracy.
More importantly, CP rates and national Catholicity levels prove to have little to do with poverty. Viet Nam and Nicaragua both have much higher CPs but are both poorer nations on a GDP per capita basis. Austria, a very Catholic country, has a similar CP to the Philippines, but its GDP per capita is over 25 times higher. The US’s CP is 75%; however, half the pregnancies reported in the US are still self-designated as unplanned and 40% of children are born outside of marriage. So, it appears both Coren’s facts and the conclusions she draws from them are incorrect.
It is true that the Catholic Church rejects the use of all artificial birth control, especially those that are abortifacient. However, the Church does not promote the birth of more children than a family can support. Instead, the Church encourages married couples to practice natural family planning (NFP) in order to match family size to economic means. The Church promotes prosperity and dignity—not poverty. The Church is a net ender of poverty, not a contributor.