Sex and Religion

Finding Religion and Spirituality in Population, Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Advocacy in the Philippines.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reproductive health and religion

By Marit Stinus-Remonde
Reproductive health and religion

Research suggests pregnancy is healthy, The Manila Times reported in one of its series of articles on abortion. But maybe not if there are too many of them. A neighbor died giving birth to her 11th child. Her jobless husband became alone raising the children, some of whom were already engaged in petty crimes. A colleague’s 40-year-old mother died from cancer. Her body was worn out after so many pregnancies and childbirths, the doctor said.

Abortions, too, kill and wreck the heart. A mother died due to abortion complications leaving her six children and husband behind. The abortion was supposed to have removed an additional financial burden from the family.

A friend had her baby aborted because her married lover didn’t want a child out of wedlock. She has never stopped mourning the loss of the baby whom she would rather have raised alone than never have had.

It is so easy to condemn women who resort to abortions. Yet, in many cases, society didn’t present them the available alternatives to abortion. True, some couples don’t think of the possible consequences of engaging in unprotected sex. They will have to live with their decisions for the rest of their lives.

Sex and procreation shouldn’t be separated, the church tells us. Old people, including old women who can no longer have children, have sex drives. Is it immoral for them to have sex? Lovers invent numerous positions to find maximum pleasure, and not all involve the ejaculation of the sperm into the vagina. Are such kinds of sex immoral? Sex is as old as the human race, and the art of giving and receiving the highest sexual pleasure has occupied the minds of men for thousands of years. Men would live their fantasies with professional lovers while sex with the wife was for the purpose of producing offspring. Fortunately, more liberal views on sex and marriage have enabled men and women to find love, exciting sex and family in marriage.

Sex is more than the act of procreation. We are, after all, human beings, not animals. While the need for sex may be purely physical and the sex drive biologically determined, sex is also a means to give and receive warmth, love and affection.

On the other hand, a sexual attraction expressed in a manner unwelcome by its object becomes a violation of the latter’s dignity and integrity. A Catholic priest who plays with the straps of the bras of 20 female high-school students during confession and pinches their armpits is obviously guilty of such violation. The Archdiocese of Cebu has staunchly defended the priest and his acts, thus revealing its poor understanding of sex and sexuality, and how these cannot be separated from the personality, integrity and dignity of the individual.

God gave man the gift of freedom. “The freedom to choose what is right and wrong. However, when one’s freedom of choice is exercised erroneously, it may result in regret, disappointment and failure. Choosing abortion present countless dangers to women.” (“Abortion vs. Freedom of Choice, Manila Times, Oct. 23, 2007).

But we don’t choose what is right and wrong. God equipped us with mind, heart and soul aside from freedom. We have the capacity to discern, to evaluate opposing information, and make up our own mind. Regret, disappointment and failure are prices worth paying for the exercise of freedom. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church and its rigid doctrine on reproductive health is that it is imposing its ways on everybody, thus taking away people’s freedom to make choices based on our own discernment and beliefs. Abortion is a last, desperate resort. Other options, while being available, are scarce and remain unaffordable to a majority of the population, in no small degree thanks to the lobbying of the Catholic Church. Information about reproductive health is deliberately being withheld. Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, in a homily some years ago, put men who undergo vasectomy, in the same moral class as drug lords.

Sexuality is complex. It is probably the most personal, private and individual aspect of a person, yet also something that is visible and open for interaction, a space where biology, politics and emotions mix in a dynamic, ever-changing combination. Thus, to address the reproductive health needs and concerns of society and the individual, we must go beyond both religious doctrine and contraceptive supply


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