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Monday, February 7, 2011

Jose C. Sison on how to respond to the RH Bill

A LAW EACH DAY (Keeps Trouble Away) 
By Jose C. Sison 
Updated February 07, 2011 12:00 AM

In last Friday’s column (Reaching another crossroad), the CBCP has clearly shown in its pastoral letter that contrary to what its advocates are claiming, the RH bill does not really promote reproductive health, does not reduce but increases the rate of abortion, does not really prevent HIV/AIDS, empowers women with ownership of their own bodies which are really God’s gift subject to God’s will, and is not necessary to stop overpopulation and to escape poverty. Thus in the light of these false premises, the Bishops were forced to express their strong objections to:

1. The non-consideration of moral principles, the bedrock of law, in legislative discussions of bills intended for the common good and the good of individuals.

2. The anti-life, anti-natal and contraceptive mentality that is reflected in media and in some proposed legislative bills.

3. The efforts at railroading the passage of the RH bill.

4. The overall trajectory of the RH bill towards population control.

5. The use of public funds for contraceptives and sterilization.

6. The compulsory sex education that would effectively let parents abdicate their primary role of educating their own children especially in the area of sexuality which is a sacred gift of God.

Obviously, these objections of the Bishops stem from their firm convictions which they also expressed in their pastoral letter as follows:

a) Deep concern about the plight of the poor, especially of suffering women who are struggling for a better life and who must seek it outside the country or by recourse to a livelihood that is less than decent.

b) Defense of human life from the moment of conception or fertilization up to its natural end.

c) Belief in the responsible and natural regulation of births through Natural Family Planning that requires character building involving sacrifice, self-discipline and respect for the dignity of the spouse.

d) Belief that we are only stewards of our own bodies and that responsibility over our own bodies must follow the will of God who speaks to us through our conscience.

e) Belief that on the choices related to the RH bill, conscience must not only be informed but most of all rightly guided through the teachings of one’s faith.

f) Belief in the freedom of religion and the right of conscientious objection in matters that are contrary to one’s faith which is one more reason to denounce the RH bill as it imposes sanctions and penalties in violation of this freedom and right.

Admittedly, the government has called for a dialogue with the Bishops to enable them to convey and express these views. Sadly however, the dialogue only “revealed how far apart” their respective positions are. Besides, while the dialogue is still ongoing, the Congressional Committee on Family Life already approved and endorsed to the Lower House a consolidated version of the various bills now entitled “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development and for Other Purposes” containing the same objectionable features of the original RH bill. So instead of further “building false hopes”, the CBCP just decided to issue the pastoral letter containing their unanimous moral judgment to “reject the RH agenda and to choose life”. In doing so, the Bishops did not only draw up what they object to and what they stand for. They also appealed for more concrete actions as they called:

• For a fundamental transformation of our attitudes and behavior towards all human life especially the most defenseless human life being formed or being conceived.

• For our legislators to consider the RH bill in the light of the God-given dignity and worth of human life and, therefore, to shelve it completely as contrary to our ideals and aspirations as a people.

• For other lay people and adherents of other religions to join the advocacy to defend and promote our commonly shared ideals and aspirations.

• For our government to address effectively the real issues of poverty such as corruption, lack of social and economic services, social inequities, and lack of access to education and the benefits of development.

• For the establishment of more hospitals and clinics in the rural areas, the deployment of more health personnel to provide more access to health services, the building of more schools, the provision of more aid to the poor for their education and the building of more and better infrastructures for development.

The bishops thus echoed the challenge prophetically uttered 25 years ago at EDSA I and called upon “all people of goodwill who share our conviction” …to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together always to the end that truth prevail” over the many threats to human life and to our shared human and cultural values”.

This is a great challenge indeed. But we must accept and respond to it as we did during EDSA I. And one of the most feasible and immediately implementable actions that can be done in response to this challenge is of the course to organize massive prayer rallies similar to that organized in the late ’90s which foiled the plan of some ambitious politicians to extend their stay in power by amending the constitution. This time the prayer rallies will be imploring the help of the Divine Providence to stop Congress from enacting that anti-life and anti-family RH bill.

Another doable move that can be done immediately is to lobby for and support House Bill No. 13 entitled an “Act Providing for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child and for Other Purposes”. This bill actually seeks to implement the Constitutional Provision in Article II Section 12 mandating the State to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. It is based on the truism that the right to life is the most fundamental of rights from which all other rights are derived and without which other rights including women’s right to reproductive health are meaningless. Due to space limitations, HB 13 shall be discussed in a subsequent article.

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