So many of our congressmen seem inclined to support the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, without regard to the Constitution, the religious beliefs, moral convictions and customs of their own people. They seem undisturbed that its passage could further divide our already divided nation.
They try to justify their stand by talking about every tangential issue, while evading the core issues, which will ultimately decide whether the bill could be enacted into a valid and enforceable law or not.
Contrary to the propaganda, the issue is not whether or not women (and men) should have “the right” to practice contraception and sterilization, and be “free” to use any method of their choice.
No law prohibits contraception or sterilization at all. Everyone is free to do it. They have been doing it since martial law, and the government and foreign donors have been funding it year after year. At least P2 billion is appropriated for RH this year. Some LGUs even have their own foreign-funded RH programs. The nation’s contraceptive prevalence rate now stands at 51 percent.
It is, therefore, one big swindle to say we need an RH law so women (and men) would have the “right” to use contraceptives, many of which are, in fact, abortifacient.
At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, it was decided that the poor countries finally assume two-thirds of the cost of their RH programs, which until then was being borne mainly by the rich countries. Those costs were estimated at $20.5 billion in 2010, and $21.7 billion in 2015.
That could be one reason for the bill. But not even the ICPD prescribed, as proposed in the bill, that all married couples practice birth control as an integral part of marriage, regardless of their religious beliefs and moral convictions.
The proponents have shied away from all the fundamental questions. For instance, does the State have the right or the duty to organize the intimate private lives of its citizens? Can Congress enact the RH bill into law, or any bill for that matter, without regard to the moral law and the Constitution?
The mandate of Sec. 12, Article II of the Constitution is clear. “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”
They have tried to dance around this constitutional policy by asking, “when does life begin?” That would be quite relevant if we were discussing abortion. But we are not, and the only relevant question here is this: If the duty of the State is to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception, does it also have the right or the duty to run a program of contraception and sterilization whose purpose is to prevent conception?
Put differently, can the State be simultaneously the protector and the preventer of childbearing? Clearly, it can only be one or the other, but not both at the same time.
Likewise, if parents are the natural and primary educators of their children, can the State impose, as proposed in the bill, a compulsory sex education program on schoolchildren, from Grade V until fourth year high school, without parental consent? The answer is clear.
Now, Article XV “recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation,” and marriage “as an inviolable social institution,” “the foundation of the family.” It “shall be protected by the State.” Sec. 3 provides: “The State shall defend: (1) The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”
This is where Catholics and the others come in. They have every right to practice their respective faiths, and the State has the duty to protect such right.
I am a Catholic. I believe, with the Church, that contraception and sterilization are intrinsically evil. I try to practice what I believe. My friend, however, is of a different faith. He believes that contraception and sterilization are good for his health. Non-passage of the bill will not impair his “right” to contracept. It will not hurt the practice of his faith. But its passage will certainly hurt mine.
I do not want the State to act as the enforcer of my Catholic faith and compel my neighbor to believe what I believe. But the State cannot tell me to support, and with my tax money too, a program that attacks my faith. I would feel religiously persecuted, and would have every right, if not duty, to resist.
I may or may not march against the law. Nor call or join any call for civil disobedience. But the law would have no moral or constitutional basis. It would simply turn the Philippines into a totalitarian state. And the government would “lose its moral authority to govern,” in the words of the CBCP in February 1986.