The Moral Dimensions of Family Planning

President Aquino’s recent announcement that he would be pushing forward with the reproductive health (RH) bill has set off a firestorm of reactions from various sectors, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), a representative of which has threatened Aquino with excommunication.

What follows is the text of a keynote address delivered by former First Lady Imelda Marcos on January 7, 1974, at the First Asian Regional Conference on Family Planning. Pro Pinoy is posting the speech in the hope of stimulating discussion not only on the current controversy, but also on the history of population control in the Philippines. It may be of interest to note that Mrs. Marcos, a Catholic who led the move toward population control during the Marcos regime, has yet to be excommunicated.

The Moral Dimensions of Family Planning

It is my pleasure to keynote this Asian Regional Conference on Family Planning of the Medical Women’s International Association. I can think of nothing more appropriate and timely to usher in World Population Year 1974 than a regional conference on family planning. Allow me therefore to welcome to Manila our neighbors from the Asian region and our distinguished guests and speakers to this inaugural activity of our world population year program. I hope you will find your stay both fruitful and pleasant.

The Malthusian solution to its own nightmare was—after abstinence—war, famine, and pestilence. We know now that this is no solution at all, as war, famine, and pestilence are the consequences of the population explosion.

Our modern technological civilization has, therefore, devised the technique of planning and control.

We are moved, as B. F. Skinner has said, to depend on our strength, which is technology. Thus population planning and control originated as a proposition from among the rich nations of the world, nations which have benefited and are benefiting most from technology.

Some cynic has said that population planning and control is advocated for the poor peoples by the world’s rich in order to preserve their stability and insure their comforts. For if the world’s poor were to increase beyond measure, the rebellion of the poor will explode and imperil the security and well-being of the world’s rich.

And, going farther, not us but the philosophers of the technological civilization have pointed out that a shift in the thinking of rich nations can, without great effort, convert their resources and technology for feeding, clothing, and housing all the peoples of the world. The expenditure in arms and space technology could have been, it is said, redirected to the welfare of all mankinds [sic] on earth.

For developing nations like the Philippines, the planning and control of population is of fairly recent awareness. For nations such as ours have experienced the painful reality of economic growth being cancelled out by a high rate of population increase. Our rate in the Philippines is among the highest in the world. It is for this reason that we have taken the Western proposition for our own fundamental end—that of survival. As President Ferdinand E. Marcos has emphasized again and again, we need to depend on ourselves.

And so we pursue our population programme with enthusiasm and vigor, aware nevertheless of traditional ways and mores of our people.The main thrust of our programme is education, basically the re-orientation of our people to the complexities of modern life. Only in the Philippines do you find a tri-partite cooperation among the government, the private sector, which includes the religious organizations, and international agencies concerned with population control. We have adopted the technique in order to avert diffusion of time, effort, and resources.

Education, not just pills and other palliative measures, is the crying immediate need. Government alone cannot succeed. The help of the private sector, specially of the religious organizations, is most critical.

In a week we inaugurate the Population Center building where such cooperation of hte private with the religious, government, and international organizations involved in population control will be formalized and housed.

We must say that for the most part it is the Filipino male in the Philippines who holds the key to family planning. Traditionally, the Filipino looked to the child-bearing of his wife as a matter of prestige or male pride, while both husband and wife looked to many children as an assurance for their old age. And so children were born in expectation of a form of bondage, for in exchange for their rearing they should take care of their aging parents.

I hold no strong brief against this attitude. It is one of the charms and proof of compassion of Filipino family life. But it is anachronistic in an age of social security.

We need to understand now that we bear and raise children because we love them, not for any economic or selfish reason.

Thus, if there were in the West political, social, and economic considerations in advocating population control for the poor peoples of the world, for us, in the Third World, the primary consideration is moral.

Large families living in squalor strain the moral sense. Our experience of greed, graft, and corruption has largely been the consequence of large or even many families. Numbers have ethical implications: the qualitative change in the moral perceptions of a man who proceeds from three children to ten or more is rather evident. Aggression comes from pressure and population pressure, indeed, arouses the aggressive instincts of men.

But more than this negative moral sanction is the positive one. To plan, to abstain properly, or to take measures breeds discipline and manifests maturity. Though we may learn that creature comforts await us at the end of the discipline, we are more exhilarated by the fact that we accept the responsibility for our own lives, that every step we take is the result of ethical deliberation.

The boons of population discipline will take, at least, a generation or two to be felt and enjoyed by all. But the spiritual well-being that comes from the knowledge of self-abnegation and planning is immediately felt. Thus, we say that family planning leads to other forms of planning—to economic, social, and even political planning.

We are at present involved in making a new society, a society that is compassionate no less than disciplined and progressive.

We are aware that family planning is one of the pillars of the new society, undertaken not because we want to protect the wealth of the few against the explosion of the poor, bunt undertaken because we do not want to condemn unborn generations to misery and servitude.

We want children because we love them, and because we love them, we want, as far as possible, the best for them, spiritually no less materially. But too many of them will surely diminish our love and deflect our attention: too many of them will strain our moral capacities. This I feel is the moral dimension of family planning in the Philippines.

On this note, I welcome all of you to our country and may your seminar prove fruitful, may your discussions bring forth new insights and new ways of promoting the great moral change that will protect mankind from unregulated fertility.

To all of you, thank you.

The ProPinoy Project

  • NO, not agree with you. God’s Moral settings can never be change!

  • Dexter Amoroso


    By the way, Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas disgrees with you. Follow this link

    The Philippine population is not exploding

  • maripe juliano

    To PNOY…. I always attended the Thank God It is yellow Friday in ayala and prayed hard for NOYNOY. But i do hope he does not aspire TO PLAY GOD… let GOD take care of HIS creatures….

    God giveth and God taketh away…. i pray DO NOT PLAY GOD by giving condoms to the poor!!! Just teach the poor women who cannot afford to feed their children when they are FERTILE instead of giving them condoms.

    in my humble opinion.

    maripe juliano

  • Dexter Amoroso


    Many people from provinces will disagree with you. There are not too many people in this country. For the purposes of the discussion, I’ll take this as settled. So we will not discuss whether the population needs to be controlled but what methods should be employed.

    Let me start.

    Contraception is an “intrinsic evil”. Family planning by spouses taking under consideration all the resources at their disposal and their personal, family and community needs is perfectly acceptable.

    NFP is in no way a contraceptive act. The act remains pure ,natural and marital.

    A sexual act using contraception is not pure natural or marital.

    If you’d like to expand on and explain or refute the above statements, Ma’am, then I happily say: the floor is yours. So tell me – What does the “Artificial Contraceptives” offer that is not found in a “Natural Family Planning”?

    • UP nn grad

      mr jhead-in-the-sand : condoms offers pleasure – a husband and wife enjoyng sex, giving each other joy without worrying about suddenly getting enslaved by thirty-something years of expenditures from an unplanned expenditure.

      By the way — think again of the joy of orgasm. This is one of the few single acts joint between man and woman that make them forget the world around them and, in a brief instance, they feel oneness with the other.

      Condoms allows man and woman to enjoy the bliss of orgasm and the oneness with the other.

  • Felicity

    Dexter – “The cause of poverty in the Philippines is massive corruption and not too many people. The solution is to stamp out corruption.
    Linking a broad based problem such as “Poverty” to a single root cause such as “rapid population growth” is overly simplistic.”

    So is pointing to massive corruption as the cause of poverty. While it is true that corruption is a major hurdle to progress and development, you cannot ignore the fact that our resources cannot provide for our booming population at the rate that it is exploding.

    It’s like a family getting a raise (let’s say in socio-economic terms this is the decrease in corruption and more distribution of wealth) only every 5 years whereas the family grows by a new member every year. Resources are not enough. The decrease in corruption and decreas ein population should go hand-in-hand to meet in a middle where resources can provide for the population.

    The tragedy lies in conservatives dictating their religious beliefs on public policy at the expense of progress and development and, to put it quite bluntly, basic human rights.

    So what is irresponsible — reproductive health education, or a stubborn adherence to arcane catholic beliefs rendering the masses ignorant?

  • Felicity


  • Boots MB

    I have posted this on another page and posting it here as well as it is deemed important for our country to address birth control now.

    UN ranks the Philippines as No. 62 in terms of fertility rate with three as expected number of children born per woman. This is a major problem.

    With our present population of over 94.013 million, this is a major, major problem. We’re the 12th populous nation in the world. Our population density is 307 per sq km. That is too crowded a…nd, again, is causing a major, major, major problem.

    At the rate its going, as experts say, the Philippine population will double by 2039! There will be more mouths to feed, more needing housing, more children needing schools, more needing clothes to wear, more making so much waste effecting more diseases, etc.

    SOME of those who are ‘forbidden’ to have children or those who have political favors pointing at the opposite direction – what do they care? A number of them don’t care that they could even dare to molest children and hurt families by insulting them in public using the pulpit (the latter has happened in Kalibo, Aklan).

  • Caril

    Go, go, go PNoy for your program on population control!!!! I like that long-time-ago-speech of former first lady IRM. Bkit, ano po ba ang mga repercussions kung “deadmain” ang gobyerno ng simbahang katoliko??? Eh di i-excommunicate nila!! Tama na ang pakikialam ninyong mga taga simbahan sa gobyerno!!! With your (RC Church) very dark history of violence, bigotry, persecution, let alone immorality, panahon na na magising ang lahat sa katotohanan. I was born & raised a RC, pero ngayon ay nagising na ako sa katotohanan. Enough of your pious-concealed hypocrisy, di ninyo napaunlad, at kelanman di nyo mapapaunland, ang bayan!!! Karamihan sa mga bansang dominado ng simbahang romano katoliko ay mga bansang naghihirap!!! Instead, let your allegedly stinking national archives at the Vatican be open to all kung wala talaga kaung tinatagong baho!!!

  • Dexter Amoroso

    The cause of poverty in the Philippines is massive corruption and not too many people. The solution is to stamp out corruption.
    Linking a broad based problem such as “Poverty” to a single root cause such as “rapid population growth” is overly simplistic.

    The Church’s “Solution” is the same as it has always been. Charity, Chastity, Sanctity. People should not have more children than they are able to support. Artificial methods are not required to do this. Chastity will accomplish it nicely. As for poverty, there are many possible solutions to this that do not require ABC methods either. There are societies that are economically rich and spiritually impoverished, just as there are societies that are economically poor and spiritually rich. Each society and each community must find its own way in the matter of how to earn a living – But the beat way combat “poverty” is to be rich spiritually. In this way one needs less, gives more, and is enriched both in this life and in the next.

    But let’s address this poverty issue for just a moment as it DOES relate to population control.

    1) Who is going to pay for all the BCP’s and Condoms etc needed to control the population?
    2) Are the poor people going to be expected to purchase these things when they are struggling to feed themselves? Is the government going to do it? Are you saying that the Philippine Government is rolling in so much money that they can afford to supply these things free of charge nationwide? And do this while also trying to supply education and legal support for such a program?
    3) Who is going to teach the people the proper uses of these items?
    4) Who is going to enforce the use of these items among a population that does not universally accept their use?

    A sexual act using contraception is not pure natural or marital. NFP is in no way a contraceptive act. The act remains pure, natural and marital. I think the rhythm method is no longer taught or promoted by the Church. Rhythm is based on calendar predictions using past cycle data. It is quite inaccurate and has been replaced by much more modern methods, for over 40 years now. I don’t know if people knew that there are modern methods of natural family planning that observe actual signs of fertility and do not rely on averages or past cycle data. These include Sympto-Thermal, Creighton, Billings, and Marquette models.

    Poverty is not the root of evil. Greed is. Those who are poor can sometimes be driven to acts of desperation. No question about it. But the cause of their desperation is the greed of others, or even possibly their own. According to the study millions of Filipinos including the lower-income bracket spend significant portions of their money in cigarettes, alcohol, gambling (e.g. Jueteng, etc), and other similar practices that generally do not lead to improvements in their health and general welfare.

    So – would these “poor people” who burned down the school have been less desperate if they were spending less money on cigarettes and gambling? Are the children rummaging in the dumps to get money for food or for their parents to gamble and smoke?

    Poor people have the same choice as the rest of us. They can choose to Love God and work to be near Him in their station in Life or not. These Children could be witnesses to God, singing God’s praises as they rummage the dumps. The parents can pray for the grace and strength to give up cigarettes and gambling et. al. for the sake of feeding their children. They could further ask for the grace to practice chaste lives so that they do not have more children than they can adequately provide for.

    Much depends on the “world-view” of the people themselves, and how they are taught from the pulpit and from the media.

    The government and the people of wealth can also do much to alleviate the problems. Of that I have no doubt. But they must also have that poverty which brings us close to God. Poverty such that their money is not theirs but belongs to God to be used by them for the good of God’s people, especially those less fortunate.

    Does it matter that the poor are existing in this temporary economic hell? Yes it matters. But the Church cannot sanction the sin of ABC as a solution to such a temporary “hell” when the result could be sending many souls to the permanent hell.

  • al

    Excommunicate Pnoy for being honest and practical about the issue on population? The Catholic Congregations must first ask themselves- What have they really done on alleviating the plight of our poor countrymen? What have these Catholic Schools done to help educate our poor countrymen? All they doo is basked in their comfortable lifestyle and increase tuition fees. Why are the non-Catholic private schools less expensive that the other?

    Sometimes, I think that these Catholic leaders are no better than the ones during Jesus time.

  • bubbles

    Di ba gagawa ang government kung ano yung makakabuti sa Pilipino?. Ito ang tama na hakbang na makakabuti para sa lahat. Maaring may pros and cons , absorb naman ng government iyon. Masusing pinag aralan yan panahon pa ni Late President Marcos. Kung halimbawa sa China na nga eh pag nagka anak ka taxable. Dito sa Pilipinas mas maeeducate ang mga kababayan kung paano maging responsable. Matuto ang mga magulang magplanning at magbigay ng mabuting kinabukasan sa kani kanilang mga anak.

    Morality?, How do you define morality?. Masama ba ang family planning propose by the government to prevent population explosion?..Di ba mas masama yung magulang ka nagpaparami ka ng anak, iresponsable ka dahil di mo na sila mapakain, hikahos sa buhay dahil sa di sapat ang kinikita ng magulang sa pagpapalaki sa anak tapos lalaki ang mga anak nagiging salot ng lipunan dahil sa kakulangan ng turo sa kanilang mga magulang na 24 hours kumakayod para may mapakain lang sa kanilang mga anak. Nasa ten commandments ang THou shall not kill… Hindi naman ibig sabihin nag planning ka or control eh it’s killing already. Ang killing eh yung turong mali … like abortion, hinihikayat sa sarili control ng tao eh di naman lahat ng tao marunong magcontrol( Natural). Ang tunay na killing ay eh maging iresponsible ka bilang magulang sa mga anak at paglaki ng mga anak killers na mismo ng lipunan. Yan ang killing….

    Sana examine din ang mga turo kung resonable o hindi kase ito yung gagabay talaga sa moral upbringing ng tao. Katolisismo examine niyo turo niyo kung kayo mismo naiintindihan niyo ang tinuturo niyo. Plan to excommunicate the President ? for what justifiable reason? Kailan ba naging immoral ang paggawa ng hakbang sa ikabubuti ng bayan?… No wonder mga sakop at deboto bansa like Mexico sa ganitong maling turo ng Katolisismo …

  • honeyed

    I don’t know why some catholic sector don’t understand what the Pres. Noynoy wants. If you’re talking about the commandment. Thou shall not kill controlled ba yan mismo past administration at ordinary tao ang dami napatay, massacre, raped and killed na ilagay ba yan sa utak ng mga matitinong tao that came from a catholic religion, adultery mismo nasa government official, ordinary people nagagawa yan nasa commandment din yan may nagawa ba ? wala rin kung tutuusin lahat ng nasa commandment nagawa na ng tao. di natin ma control yan. nasa tao kung gusto nya magkasala. at kahit manalo ang catholic ganun pa rin. ang dapat unahin ang kapakanan ng sambayanan maka ahon sa corruption, na hanggang ngayon marami ang gusto pabagsakin c pres Noynoy dahil di sila makagalaw ang mga kurakot sa mga past and for sure mayroon sa administration ni Pres. Noynoy. nasa isang commandment din yan thou shall not steal may nagawa ba ang catholic sector wala. still NASA TAO PA RIN. OPEN YOUR MIND AND EYES. LET THE PEOPLE REPENT SA SARILI NILA KUNG GUSTO NILA MAG- SISI O AYAW. GOD BLESS THIS COUNTRY

  • lome

    “We know now that this is no solution at all, as war, famine, and pestilence are the consequences of the population explosion.”

    War ,Famine,and pestilence can be traced to man’s selfishness,uncaring attitude towards his neighbor.How many public servant in power really undergone personal hardship for the sake of poor Filipinos squandering in utter poverty? who started lots of runaway government projects that existed only in the minds of these same people for their own selfish needs? funding going straight to their deep pockets?
    Will population control stop greed and corruption among our public servants.? You got to be kidding !

    This is what we learned growing up under corrupt Government officials.They were good in planning ,coming up with lot of bright ideas about the best way to spend taxpayer monies,only to be caught up in corruption.It was an everyday thing.

    Lots of them ,other than having a better educations were poor in management if not outright corrupt.This waterdown lectures on Godly living,patriotism still remains to be seen.This has to STOP..
    Filipinos are not stupid.These “know it all” public servants are the ones labeling the poor Filipinos to this kind of mentality..You lied to get votes,but not anymore.
    start backing your goodwill intentions with facts.
    Responsible parenting outside of abortion is what Filipino needs.better education,development of other areas other than Luzon?

    Are the people in Mindanao ,complaining of over population?
    If people can find jobs,they they won’t be too much of a burden?
    Don’t make them your scapegoats..

  • LTBaduria

    It’s time for the Philippines to move forward if it hopes to break away from its endless poverty and helplessness – much of it caused by the country’s unwillingness to do anything about birth control and corruption. Fortunately, you have a President who really cares about your future and clearly understands what is needed to correct many of the problems facing you.

    It’s quite hypocritical of the religious group to attack the President’s plans to push the Reproductive Bill when they have not done one bit to resolve the issue of uncontrolled birth especially among the young and the poor. Ever wonder why the Catholic religion has lost ground and support in many developed countries? That’s because they have refused to adapt to changing needs of the society, including the need to maintain control of its population.

    Let’s face the fact that Birth Control is necessary in any society whose economy is in peril, and where ordinary citizens have very little chance of proper health care and education. I have seen many young people lose the chance of advancing in life when pregnancy got in the way because they forgot to use birth control. The reality is this, you cannot afford to have many more when many Filipinos go hungry. Until you reach a strong economy with a stable government, having the Reproductive Bill passed is the smartest thing for the country.

    As a Catholic, I am appalled at the sheer audacity of the bishops to even threaten ex-communication. Indeed, what have they done to stop and condemn the history of physical and sexual abuses perpetrated by their colleagues? Perhaps this is the reason I no longer practice this religion – it has become lost cause and no longer serves its purpose. I still believe in God – one who is caring and loving, non-judgmental and forgiving. I’m not afraid to say that the Catholic religion no longer holds this view.