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Friday, December 17, 2010

Is opposition to the RH bill merely a religious issue?

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away) By Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) 
Updated December 10, 2010 12:00 AM

Dragging the religious differences among the various religious communities into the RH bill controversy is misleading. It is true that in our pluralistic society, there are Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists with differing moral convictions regarding the use of artificial contraceptives. But the controversy surrounding the RH bill is not so much about whether it is contrary to the religious beliefs and moral convictions of a particular sect or religious denomination. It is more about whether the bill violates the law — of man and of nature.

Basically, man-made law is “a general rule of external human action enforced by a sovereign political authority”. It is “a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in the state, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary). It is, as simply but comprehensively defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, “an ordinance of reason promulgated by a competent authority for the sake of the common good”. Evidently, the essential element of law is the common good. So the basic question should be: is the use of contraceptives for the sake of the common good?

The data gathered by western social scientists, some of whom are atheists or pro-choice advocates show the damaging effects of contraceptives, abortifacient or non-abortifacient. They admit that the use of contraceptives has given rise to “contraceptive mentality” which has caused “a rise in infidelity, breakdown of families and trouble in relationship between the sexes, a lessening of respect for women by men, female impoverishment, and single motherhood”. The findings also reveal “the causal link between contraception and abortion” and “increase in both illegitimacy and abortion”. Indeed they found in China, “the coercive use of reproductive health technologies like the forced abortion and sterilization practice”. Medical science has also found that these contraceptives are injurious to health as some of them cause cancer and other sickness.

Hence it is quite clear that the use of contraceptives harms rather than promotes the common good, and therefore violates human law. Indeed it violates our Constitution which mandates the State “to protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution”; “to protect the life of the unborn from conception” (Section 12, Article II); and to protect and promote the right to health of the people (Section 15).

Natural law on the other hand is knowable by all persons independent of their religious beliefs because it is the sum of rules that “follow directly from the nature of the human person”; it is the “norm derived from human nature”. One of the most natural acts of a human person is to engage in sexual intercourse which has for its natural consequence the possible transmission of life when man’s sperm cell may be united with and may fertilize the egg released from one of the woman’s ovaries to form a living human embryo. Contraceptives however interfere with this natural process by preventing the union of the sperm and the egg. So they violate natural law as they degrade the integrity and dignity of the human person.

It is true that there are religious differences on the use of artificial contraceptives. Some religious denominations leave it up to married couples the decision to use or not to use artificial contraceptives based on the dictates of their conscience. The Catholic Church and other Protestant communities, on the other hand, disallow such use on moral grounds. But it is not correct to say that when the Catholic Church and the other religious communities oppose the RH bill they “are trying to impose their moral convictions on Congress to legislate laws that are in accord with their respective moral frameworks”.

The Catholic Church and other Protestant communities are precisely asking Congress not to legislate particularly the RH bill because it violates both human and natural laws. They are only pointing out to Congress that there is no need for the RH bill if the purpose is merely to give couples the freedom to choose artificial contraceptives or any other means of birth control for family planning because right now these are already available and can be used by couples of any religious belief and moral conviction. Indeed under the present set-up, our pluralistic society of Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists can harmoniously live with their own moral convictions and beliefs on the issue of the use of artificial contraceptives.

Catholics and some Protestant churches are opposing the RH bill not because of their desire that the “laws of the nation be consistent with their moral principles”. Neither are they violating the principle of separation of Church and State by doing so. On the contrary it is the State or Congress which will violate this principle if the RH bill is enacted into law.

This is because the bill favors the religious beliefs and moral convictions of other religious communities and churches; it makes artificial contraceptives and methods readily and freely available to couples belonging to these religious communities; it contains coercive provisions for the use of artificial contraceptives, services, supplies and devices disguised as “reproductive health care services and family planning methods particularly addressed to employers and health care workers; it allows husband or wife to undergo vasectomy or ligation without the consent of the spouse; it requires sex education for children from age ten to 17 without the consent of their parents.

In short the bill violates the principle of Church and State separation which is against the Constitution by forcing citizens to go against their religious beliefs and moral convictions. The overall the issue here is strictly legal, not religious.

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