Thursday, July 17, 2008

GMA is right on the repro bill

The “culture of death” issue is once again in the headlines, after the Catholic bishops denounced a reproductive health bill which two standing committees are trying to steamroll in the House of Representatives, in violation of the Constitution and the Rules of the House.

Using painfully faulty data, former President Fidel V. Ramos has criticized President Gloria Arroyo for reportedly listening to the bishops, at the cost of her birth control program, which the international repro health lobby is vigorously trying to push.

This is one issue where Ramos and his friends are dead wrong, and Arroyo is refreshingly right. The bill is an abomination, and the effort to ram it through, without observing the process guaranteed by the Constitution and the House’s own rules, makes it even worse.

Women’s health, like everybody else’s, is and should be a permanent concern. But the repro health bill is not about this. It is an attempt to use women’s health to advance an ideology that does not recognize the sanctity of human life or family life, which occupies such a high place in our Constitution, our culture, and our hierarchy of moral values and religious beliefs.

The bill –An Act Providing For A National Policy On Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development and For Other Purposes ---is a consolidation of four bills. Three of the bills were heard once on April 29, 2008 by the House committees on Health and on Population and Family Relations; the fourth was not. On May 21st, the two committees met again purportedly for a second hearing, but declared after a few minutes that the bills had been consolidated into one unnumbered substitute bill, which would now be reported out on second reading for floor debates.

The offense is procedural but fatal. Section 3 (4), Article XV of the Constitution provides: “The State shall defend…the right of families or family associations to participate in the planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them.” Likewise, Sec. 34 of the Rules of the House requires the committees to “undertake measures and establish systems to ensure that constituencies, sectors or groups whose welfare and interests are directly affected by measures to be discussed are able to participate in these meetings or public hearings.”

Such steamrolling cannot result in any valid legislation. That the proposal had allegedly been filed and heard in the previous Congress, which chose not to act on it, has no effect on the present Congress, which has a different membership altogether. It must go through the mill as if it had never been filed before, and was being heard for the first time.

While the bill purportedly seeks to “uphold and promote responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life,” it limits these to those that are “in conformity with universally recognized international human rights.” This denies the unborn the right to life, which is sacred to the Constitution, since so many governments have legalized the killing of the unborn.

The bill seeks full official funding for artificial birth control methods, which the Church condemns as unlawful; which the World Health Organization has determined to be carcinogenic and hazardous to women’s health; and which make a mockery of the constitutional guarantee of “equal protection for the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

It is a blatant attempt to circumvent that core constitutional provision. Equal State protection for the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from the moment of conception leaves no room for the State to support a program that prevents mothers from conceiving. But this is exactly what the bill proposes to do --to reduce the solemn words of the Constitution into a mere shell game.

The controversy has grown ever since Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado reportedly issued a pastoral letter saying his archdiocese would deny holy communion to church-going pro-abortion politicians. The Code of Canon Law (Can. 1398) provides that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.” That is to say, automatic excommunication, without anyone pronouncing sentence.

While advocating abortion may not necessarily be the same as procuring one, “the Church has its own and exclusive right to judge cases which refer to matters which are spiritual or linked with the spiritual; and the violation of ecclesiastical laws and whatever contains an element of sin, to determine guilt and impose ecclesiastical penalties” (Can. 1401).

The separation of Church and State has been invoked. This, however, means the State’s non-interference in the affairs of the Church, which does not owe the State its existence. The Pope has no armed divisions, as Stalin once said, while the State has vast coercive powers. But since the State is not the source of truth, it has no authority or competence to legislate outside of the moral law on the whole complex being of man.

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