Family planner: PNG catholics interfering

PNG family planning

Family planning advocates in Papua New Guinea have accused the Catholic Church of restricting their work.

The Church has contracted with the government to run health clinics. The contract requires that full family planning clinics be part of the service.

Critics say the church is failing to prove full planning services.

The Church advocates natural methods of contraception.

Still it insists it also provides counselling and a patient referral system.

The Catholic Church officially promotes the natural ovulation method for birth control. But Bishop Rolando Santos, of Alotau, points to a much harder line.

“They should not use artificial means in order to prevent the natural process from taking place,” he says.

Church out of touch

Family planning advocate Wendy Steinshe says the Church is out of touch. “I feel like they’re oppressing the indigenous people in PNG,” she says.

She says bishops send teams out to discourage women from accepting the contraceptive implants that her organisation offers.

Stein says Santos called her to say she’d go to hell for doing wrong.

Santos says family planning advocates give implants to teenage girls.

“This can embolden a woman,” he says.

Family planning NGOs say they serve young women because teenage pregnancy rates are growing.

The UN estimates that one in six PNG females will have her first child before she turns 18.

Cathy Fokes, a former NGO director, says the Church conducts spot checks on health providers. “They didn’t want to get caught, they could lose their jobs.”

Dr Glen Mola, head of obstetrics at the Port Moresby General Hospital, believes these are rare.

He says there are a few fundamentalists in the Catholic hierarchy who have “bees in their bonnets”.

Dr Mola said he’s aware of cases where the Church clinics destroys family planning supplies.

“They use very small amounts, like the condoms, the pills and the injectables, and then they expire,” he says.

Then, he says. they incinerate them.

He says he’s told senior health officials but they depend too much on the Catholic Church’s health services.

NGO director Stein wants a cut to the Church’s funding.

The PNG Health Department did not respond to repeated requests from the ABC for comment.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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