Planned and responsible parenthood

Planned parenthood is simply planning to be parents within the context of family. It essentially entails couples, whether married or not, choosing if and when to have children.

“If” is simply whether they choose to have children. “When” means defining a period or a change in circumstance, say, family income has risen enough to conveniently support the expenses of a new child.

Family planning is the thrust of responsible parenthood, which planned parenthood is otherwise called. Responsible means that couples raise only a child or children that they can manage, given their financial means, social status, and health, to raise well in relative comfort and to whom they can give basic education to prepare said children for adulthood, who are productive and responsible themselves.

Parents are responsible if they fail to account for the realities and obligations involved in raising children. It is, however, true that caring for the children at times is not the overriding concern of especially the poor people because, in their minds, it is the children themselves that should help provide for the family, as soon as they could work. In other words, the more children they have, the better for the family in the long run!

Meanwhile, the implementation of Republic Act 10354, after experiencing a few challenges in court, allowed Filipino women to obtain free or minimal-cost contraceptives. The said law also authorizes the grant of services and medical supplies to concerned women who need postpartum health care, and even to those who get sick after an abortion even though abortion is illegal in our country.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights hailed the said law, and its subsequently upholding by our Supreme Court as a victory for Filipino women who would “finally regain control of their fertility, health, and lives.”

I have been told that the Commission on Population and Development has also been busy preparing and packaging programs that would, in addition to providing services to women covered by the law, provide for counseling on the duties and responsibilities of parenthood. These programs and services are typically highlighted during important events like Family Planning Day and Contraception Day.

The law itself contains cautionary notices that the benefits it extends to women, couples and families should be in line with the demands of responsible parenthood. Reading the law, I also could detect some bias towards marriage — meaning perhaps that couples are better off if they are married and not just cohabiting — and this may be found right in the law’s declaration of policy.

The biggest cautionary note the law gives to partners, whether married, is that while the State will promote “openness to life” — and this is a way of describing the possibility of generating life every time couples engage in intimate moments — “parents should bring forth to the world only those children whom they can raise in a truly humane way.”

This is actually a persistent call of even Papal encyclicals, such as Gaudium et Spes (Hope and Joy, 1965) and Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life, 1968). Gaudium says parents must “thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those who may be foreseen.”

Humanae, for its part, stresses the point that parenthood is an obligation, to be exercised for the welfare of the parents and their children themselves, the State, and God. It says, “responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties before God, themselves, their families and human society.”

All these come down to one simple fact — parenthood is a duty and must be discharged not only for themselves but ultimately for the world and the glory of God.

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