SYDNEY - Pressure is mounting on Papua New Guinea's Government to reconsider its contracts with health clinics run by the Catholic Church, amid concerns some are deliberately failing to meet their obligations of providing a full family planning service.
While advocating natural methods of contraception, the Church insists it also provides counselling and a patient referral system, which is a requirement of its contract with the PNG Health Department.
But family planning advocates claim items being provided to Catholic clinics by the Government go unused and are being destroyed, while others report spot checks are being carried out by senior church officials.
The Catholic Church officially promotes the natural "ovulation method", but the outspoken views of people like Rolando Santos, the Bishop of Alotau, point to a much harder line which is causing considerable anger among health professionals.
"They should not use artificial means in order to prevent the natural process from taking place," he told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.
"They have to respect the plan of God, of nature."
Family planning advocate Wendy Stein, who set up the NGO Spacim Pikinini — which translates as "space your children" — to provide implants to women living in remote PNG, has raised her concerns about the Catholic Church.
"They're out of touch and I feel like they're oppressing the indigenous people in PNG," she said.
"We've had instances where the bishops send teams out to villages with propaganda and discourage people, whether they're Catholic or not, about the implant."
She has had her own run-ins with Father Santos, who questioned the work of her NGO.
"I've had conversations with the Bishop here, he called me probably 18 months ago to have a discussion about it and told me stop what I was doing, it was wrong and that I'd go to hell," she told Pacific Beat.
Father Santos said his big concern is that NGOs like Spacim Pikinni are providing implants to teenage girls.
"It's just not to mothers. It's not just to adults, even to young people they're giving the implants to them," he said.
"This can embolden a woman."
Family planning NGOs say they target young women because teenage pregnancy rates are defying global trends, and growing.
The UN's Population Fund estimates that one in six PNG females will have her first child before she turns 18.
Cathy Fokes, the former director of Port Moresby-based NGO Safe Motherhood Alliance, has also documented stories about Catholic Church-run health clinics.
"You have individual clinics that will deliver modern methods of contraception but it's uneven again," she said.
"I was told a story where some members of the Church would do spot checks, so the health providers needed to be careful.
"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 isolated cases.
"I think this is a minority," he said.
"There are a couple of fundamentalist members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church who have bees in their bonnets as it were."
But he said most "allow the health workers to get on with their job and don't interfere".