Catholics un­der the spot­light

Lesotho Times - - News - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

Ro­man Catholic Church ( RCC) health­care fa­cil­i­ties are un­der the spot­light for con­tin­u­ing to refuse to of­fer fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices.

The RCC owns 57 clin­ics, four hos­pi­tals and two nurs­ing schools coun­try­wide which all do not of­fer fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices due to the church’s doc­trine which ad­vo­cates nat­u­ral meth­ods of birth con­trol.

The fa­cil­i­ties op­er­ate un­der the um­brella of the Chris­tian Health as­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho (CHAL), whose to­tal num­ber of health cen­tres is 79.

How­ever, the other 22 CHAL cen­tres which be­long to the Le­sotho Evan­gel­i­cal Church (LEC), angli­can Church of Le­sotho (ACL), Sev­enth Day ad­ven­tist, Church of Bi­ble Covenant and as­sem­blies of God of­fer fam­ily plan­ning ameni­ties.

But with Le­sotho reel­ing from the AIDS epi­demic, the use of con­doms dur­ing ca­sual sex has been ad­vo­cated as a way to re­duce the spread of HIV.

Le­sotho’s Hiv-preva­lence of 23 per­cent is the sec­ond high­est in the world be­hind Swazi­land’s 26 per­cent, and ac­cord­ing to médecins Sans Fron­tières (MSF), one of the rea­sons be­hind this statis­tic, as well as the coun­try’s high ma­ter­nal and in­fant mor­tal­ity, and un­wanted preg­nan­cies, is dif­fi­culty to ac­cess fam­ily plan­ning prod­ucts such as con­doms, and birth-con­trol pills.

médecins Sans Fron­tières Project med­i­cal Ref­er­ent, San­dra Sedl­maier-ou­at­tara told the Le­sotho Times: “ac­cess to fam­ily plan­ning is a very big is­sue here in Le­sotho be­cause we know that preg­nancy is a risk and women should only put them­selves at this risk by choice.

“around 18 per­cent of fam­ily plan­ning needs are not met in Le­sotho, and women who fall preg­nant by mis­take end up re­sort­ing to un­safe abor­tions.

“Il­le­gal abor­tions are one of the rea­sons for Le­sotho’s high ma­ter­nal and in­fant mor­tal­ity rate.

“Women use fam­ily plan­ning for dif­fer­ent rea­sons such as de­lay­ing preg­nan­cies, to­tally avoid­ing fall­ing preg­nant, child-spac­ing and preven­tion of HIV and AIDS. How­ever, the women don’t have ac­cess to fam­ily plan­ning meth­ods of their choice when they want them.”

ms Sedl­maier-ou­at­tara said one of the rea­sons for lack of ac­cess to fam­ily plan­ning prod­ucts is the re­fusal by RCC health cen­tres to of­fer ser­vices de­spite the des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion the coun­try finds it­self in.

“one of the rea­sons is that some hos­pi­tals sup­ported by CHAL are not of­fer­ing fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices. I mean, we know that the RCC is not only against abor­tion but even fam­ily plan­ning and is not al­low­ing con­dom use and dis­tri­bu­tion even in an Hiv-rav­ished area like Le­sotho,” she said.

“The RCC con­tin­ues to say con­doms are not al­lowed while Pope Fran­cis (the head of the church) made it clear in his speech re­cently when he said con­doms are ok to pre­vent in­fec­tions such as HIV.”

CHAL act­ing Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Bap­tista Paseka Ra­mashamole con­firmed that the 57 RCC health fa­cil­i­ties are not of­fer­ing “ar­ti­fi­cial” fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices.

“CHAL is made up of six-mem­ber churches namely ma­luti ad­ven­tist Church, Church of Bi­ble Covenant, angli­can Church of Le­sotho, Le­sotho Evan­gel­i­cal Church in South­ern africa , as­sem­blies of God and Ro- man Catholic Church.

“all th­ese mem­ber-churches have schools of nurs­ing, hos­pi­tals and clin­ics un­der the um­brella of CHAL.

“Save for the RCC, all other CHAL mem­bers of­fer ar­ti­fi­cial fam­ily plan­ning mer­chan­dise in line with an agree­ment we have signed with the gov­ern­ment of Le­sotho,” he said.

mr Ra­mashamole added RCCowned health fa­cil­i­ties do not of­fer ar­ti­fi­cial fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices be­cause of the church’s reg­u­la­tions which only ad­vo­cate for nat­u­ral fam­ily plan­ning meth­ods.

“The fa­cil­i­ties only ad­vo­cate for nat­u­ral fam­ily plan­ning meth­ods, al­though only a trained nurse can be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to ex­plain th­ese nat­u­ral meth­ods. For in­stance, the RCC teaches that chil­dren must not be al­lowed to have sex and should ab­stain, and mar­ried women can be ad­vised to ab­stain from sex dur­ing their ovu­la­tion pe­riod to pre­vent preg­nancy,” he said.

asked if th­ese nat­u­ral fam­ily plan­ning meth­ods were ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing the spread of HIV, mr Ra­mashamole said only med­i­cal per­son­nel could an­swer the ques­tion.

on his part, Chris­tian Coun­cil of Le­sotho (CCL) pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer, Pe­ter Potjo, said mem­ber­churches had the free­dom to ex­er­cise their rights.

“as a coun­cil, we are not above churches which are mem­bers of this coun­cil and as a re­sult, we can­not com­ment on their prac­tices,” mr Potjo said.

“How­ever, what we are more con­cerned about is the well-be­ing of the peo­ple un­der the guid­ance of churches.”

asked about the is­sue yes­ter­day, Le­sotho Catholic Bish­ops Con­fer- ence Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Rev­erend Fa­ther mookameli Chale, said he was not in a po­si­tion to com­ment.

“’m’e Libuseng in the Health Co­or­di­na­tor’s Of­fice would be best suited to re­spond to your ques­tions,” Rev­erend Fa­ther Chale said.

The Le­sotho Times could not im­me­di­ately get hold of the of­fi­cial in ques­tion.

CCL Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer Pe­ter Potjo.

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