At Large

Life, death and contraception

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Some time back, a 25-year-old woman in Cologne, Germany, was drugged at a party and woke up on a park bench. Fearing that she had been raped and could get pregnant because of it, the woman consulted a doctor who sent her to two Catholic-run hospitals for a gynecological exam.

According to a report by the wire news agency Reuters, both hospitals refused to treat her “because they could not prescribe the pill, which is taken after sex to avoid pregnancy.” The woman then went to a Protestant-run hospital which provided her the so-called “morning-after pill” that prevents ovulation and thus forestalls a possible pregnancy. (There is a three-day “window” for the pill, it will have no effect once pregnancy is established.)

Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner, described by the report as “an ally of the outgoing German-born Pope Benedict,” subsequently apologized for the hospitals’ treatment of the woman, saying it “shames us deeply because it contradicts our Christian mission and our purpose.”

The Catholic Church, said the report, runs a fourth of all German hospitals and half of those in the state that includes Cologne. These hospitals receive state subsidies.

But something good has resulted from this controversy. Catholic authorities in Germany said recently that the Church (and presumably Church-run hospitals) would permit the use of the “morning-after pill” for women who have been raped. The German Bishops’ Conference said Church-run hospitals would now “ensure proper medical, psychological and emotional care for rape victims—including administering pills that prevent pregnancy without inducing an abortion.”

The wire report said the German bishops’ seeming openness to women’s concerns, including increasing the number of women in leadership positions (although not ordaining them as priests), is a way of “addressing criticism of sexual discrimination by the Church.” More than 181,000 German Catholics left the Church in 2010, says the report, and 126,000 more the following year. There are now 24.47 million self-declared Catholics in Germany in a total population of 82 million.

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Consider this news in the light of the recent pronouncement of the Diocese of Bacolod urging the faithful not to vote for senatorial candidates who had voted to pass the RH bill, or who had publicly supported it.

“We have examined the RH Law as being anti-life, anti-morals, anti-family, anti-marriage, and contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” a statement by the diocese said. In their minds, it seems, the bishop and priests of Bacolod consider all forms of contraception, including the “morning-after pill,” as anti-life and immoral. I suggest they start a dialogue with their German counterparts.

Senatorial candidate Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, running under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), reacted to his inclusion in “Team Patay” (Team Death) by the Bacolod diocese by stating that he stands by his “yes” vote in the House and is proud of it. “It was a vote of my conscience,” he said.

“The Reproductive Health Bill empowers [a woman] to decide what is best for herself and her family. It makes women and their families less vulnerable,” he added.

If Church authorities are going to use a single issue—a candidate’s public stance on the RH Law—to judge the worthiness of any man or woman running for office, then maybe women and men who believe in reproductive health and rights should use that standard, too, to determine their vote.

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Here’s a novel way to indulge your inner fashionista and raise money for the world’s hungry.

Gamers or players of the online game “Stylista” (on Facebook) will be able to contribute to the World Food Programme’s Syria emergency response by buying virtual goods such as limited-edition T-shirts and bags, “now available as part of general gameplay.” Stylista is the brainchild of Sandbox Global, a digital gaming company based in Bangkok.

WFP is scaling up its food assistance operations inside Syria to reach 2.5 million people in the coming months.

Stylista—now played by at least one million online gamers worldwide every month—allows players to make virtual visits to famous fashion destinations around the world, shop for the latest fashion trends, and customize their own avatar.

Starting March, Stylista will also support WFP’s “Mother and Child Health and Nutrition” and school meals programs in Asia, with Sandbox developing a Stylista avatar in the likeness of KC Concepcion, actor and fashion icon, who is also WFP Philippines’ national ambassador against hunger.

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Last week, family, friends and colleagues of the late Teodoro C. Rey Jr. celebrated his life and memory by taking part in the inauguration and blessing of the “Teddy Rey Healing Place.” The place is actually a four-story building on the grounds of the Philippine General Hospital, a P16-million project of the PGH administration and the foundation named for Teddy Rey’s siblings Mely and Ric Rey.

The Teddy Rey Healing Place is meant for the patients and families of the PGH Pediatrics Department. It houses classrooms, counseling rooms, and a prayer room for the use of child patients who stay for long periods of time for treatment, as well as for families of the deceased in need of quiet space and comfort.

Teddy Rey, who passed away in 2008, was a leading technocrat who made valuable contributions in the field of rural and community development, and was widely regarded for his heading of the Marcos-era Farm Systems Development Corp. It was for his work with FSDC that Rey was recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men for rural development in 1978.

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