Liturgy of the Hours

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Church reply to reproductive health bill: facts, fallacies

Church reply to reproductive health bill: facts, fallacies

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:18:00 08/16/2008

IN THE INTEREST OF FAIR PLAY, WE ARE RUNNING TWO ARTICLES THAT HOLD views opposite of the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008.

The articles featured today are in response to the two articles written by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the reproductive health bill, and printed in this section on Aug. 3.

Lagman’s first article highlighted the main features of the measure, while his second noted the campaign to discredit it. He claimed that the bill was not anti-life and that it would not interfere with family life, legalize abortion, promote contraceptive mentality and impose a two-child policy.

Lagman also claimed that Humanae Vitae was not an infallible doctrine.

Besides the articles of the head of the Legal Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and of a former senator, Talk of the Town received responses from Catholic groups and individuals countering Lagman’s views.

The responses came from Fr. Virgilio Delfin of the Diocese of Malaybalay, Pet Palma Dureza of Quezon City, Maria Concepcion S. Noche of the Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Jose Fernandez of the Family Life Apostolate of St. John the Baptist Parish in Taytay, Rizal, and Minyong Ordoñez, a retired chair of the Paris-based Publicis Communications Group.

Talk of the Town also received an e-mail from Felix Libreto, a professor at the UP Open University, and a position paper of 26 economists from the University of the Philippines supporting the bill.

Because of limited space, this section cannot print all the reactions to Lagman’s articles.

* * *

Reckless and irresponsible

By Jo Imbong

REP. EDCEL LAGMAN, THE PRINCIPAL AUTHOR OF THE proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 asserts, among others, that the bill is neither antilife nor antifamily, that contraceptives are not life-threatening and that the bill does not impose a two-child policy.

Prolife? To value human life is to respect and protect life in all its seasons. “Human life begins at fertilization.” (Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. IV, Sept. 18, 1986, pp. 761, 801) hence, “the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” (Constitution, Article II, Section 12). Lagman said in a House hearing that the bill would protect human life “from implantation.”

By that token, the zygote not yet in the mother’s womb is not protected. Pills and the IUD hinder implantation of the embryo in the uterus, thereby precipitating the embryo’s destruction. That is abortion. And yet, “every child ... needs appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Not life-threatening? Records are rife of perforation of the uterus and serious pelvic infections in women with IUDs that public midwives have refused to extract. The Mayo Foundation found that oral contraceptives are associated with an increase risk of breast cancer. DepoProvera increases a woman’s risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Oral contraceptives containing cyproterone increase risk of deep venous blood clots.

Levonorgestrel is banned in this country as the Bureau of Food and Drugs found it to be abortifacient. Life-threatening ectopic pregnancies occur in mothers long after undergoing tubal ligation, particularly those sterilized before age 30.

Contraceptives as essential medicines? Contraceptives do not treat any medical condition. Fertility is not a disease. It attests to health! The bill targets “the poor, needy and marginalized.” This is most unkind to them whose real needs are jobs, skills, education, lucrative opportunities, nutrition, and essential medicines for anemia, tuberculosis, infections and childhood diseases.

Remember, every citizen has the right to health (Art. II, Sec.15), hence, the State has a duty to protect the citizens against dangerous substances (Constitution, Art. XVI, Sec.9), and protect women in their maternal function (Art. XIII,Sec. 14).

Family friendly? The “encouragement” to have two children is manipulation both brazen and subtle. It can set the stage for a stronger application of the recommendation through legislative amendments. Spouses have a basic, original, intrinsic and inviolable right “to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood” (Art. XV, Sec. 3 [1]). This includes their right to progeny.

The bill mocks parents with fine and imprisonment in refusing to expose their children to mandatory “age-appropriate” reproductive health education starting Grade 5 outside the loving confines of home and family.

Vulnerable and malleable, our children will be taught “adolescent reproductive health” and “the full range of information on family planning methods, services and facilities” for six years. This is child abuse of the highest order. And yet, “every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of his character.” (Child and Youth Welfare Code)

The ... care and nurtur[ance] of the child reside first in the parents (Article II, Sec. 12, Constitution), whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. (Brantley v. Surles, 718 F. 2d. 1354,1358-59) The State did not create the family, and “the child is not a creature of the State.” (Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, 268, U.S. 510, 535.) That is the law of nature, and no human institution has authority to amend it.

Quality of life? The bill wants to “uplift the quality of life of the people.” Population control started in 1976 “to increase the share of each Filipino in the fruits of economic progress.” In other words -- to eliminate poverty. Has it?

The General Appropriations Act of 2008 earmarks an enormous amount for “family planning and reproductive health services,” including contraceptives. For the Department of Health it is P3.19 billion; for Popcom -- P386.5 million, quite apart from funds for other agencies of government and local government units for the same programs. Add $2.4 million from the United Nations Population Fund for population and development and reproductive health for 2008, plus $2.2 million for 2009.

Today’s average family has three children compared with seven in the ’70s. But the billions of pesos spent have not reduced poverty or benefited the poor.

If Congress passes this bill, it wagers the future of the country. Citizens have a right to resist misplaced and irresponsible exercise of authority because the good of the people is the supreme law. Salus populi est suprema lex.

The path of irresponsible legislation is a dreadful path: If an act is made legal, it will be perceived as moral. If an act is perceived as moral, it will become a norm. If it is observed by all as a norm, then it is too late. By then, you will have changed the culture. That is not simply reckless. It is the ultimate breach of public trust.

(Jo Imbong, a lawyer, is the executive secretary of the Legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and consultant to the CBCP Episcoal Commission on Family and Life.)

* * *

No place for the RH bill in our law

By Francisco S. Tatad

THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH bill in the House of Representatives is being presented as a health bill and an antipoverty bill at the same time. It is neither. It is not what its authors say it is; it is everything they say it is not. It is an ideological attack on human life, the family, and our social and cultural values.

The bill rests on a flawed premise; it is unnecessary, unconstitutional, oppressive of religious belief and destructive of public morals and family values. Its enactment into law will only deepen the already frightening ignorance about the real issues. It should be rejected.

1. Flawed premise
Our population growth rate (National Statistics Office) is 2.04 percent, total fertility rate (TFR) is 3.02. The CIA World Factbook has lower figures -- growth rate, 1.728 percent; TFR, 3.00.

Our population density is 277 per square km. GDP per capita (PPP) is $3,400. Fifty other countries have a much lower density, yet their per capita is also much lower. Thirty-six countries are more densely populated, yet their GDP per capita is also much higher. Are the few then always richer, the many always poorer? Not at all.

Our median age is 23 years. In 139 other countries it is as high as 45.5 years (Monaco). This means a Filipino has more productive years ahead of him than his counterpart in the rich countries where the graying and dying population is no longer being replaced because of negative birth rates.

Our long-term future is bright, because of a vibrant and dynamic population.

2. Unnecessary
Women who say they should be free to contracept (regardless of what the moral law or science says) are not being prevented from doing so, as witness the 50-percent contraceptive prevalence rate. It is a free market. But as we are not a welfare state, taxpayers have no duty to provide the contraceptives to try and cure pregnancy, which is not a disease.

The State’s duty is to protect women from real diseases. At least 80 women die every day from heart diseases, 63 from vascular diseases, 51 from cancer, 45 from pneumonia, 23 from tuberculosis, 22 from diabetes; 16 from lower chronic respiratory diseases. Why are our lawmakers not demanding free medicines and services for all those afflicted?

Indeed, maternal death could be brought down to zero just by providing adequate basic and emergency obstetrics-care facilities and skilled medical services to women. The local officials of Gattaran, Cagayan and Sorsogon City have shown this. Why do our lawmakers insist on stuffing our women with contraceptives and abortifacients instead?

In 2005, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization concluded that oral contraceptives cause breast, liver and cervical cancer. Shouldn’t our lawmakers demand that contraceptives be banned or at least labeled as “cancer-causing,” or “dangerous to women’s health”? Why do they want them classified as “essential medicines” instead?

3. Unconstitutional
a.) The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Yet the bill seems to assume we are a centrally planned economy or a totalitarian State, which controls the private lives of its citizens. Truth is, there are certain activities of man as man where the individual is completely autonomous from the State.

Just as the State may not tell a politician or a journalist how or when to think, write or speak, it may not enter the bedroom and tell married couples how or when to practice marital love.

b.) Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution says: “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.”

The use of “sanctity” makes State obedience to God’s laws not only a solemn teaching of the Church, but also an express constitutional mandate. Now, when the State binds itself to “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” it necessarily binds itself not to do anything to prevent even one married woman from conceiving. A state-funded contraceptive program is an abomination.

4. Oppressive of religious belief

The bill seeks to tell the Catholic majority not to listen to the Church and to listen to anti-Catholic politicians instead. It seeks to establish a program which Catholic taxpayers will fund in order to attack a doctrine of their faith. Is there a worse despotism? Would the same people do the same thing to the followers of Islam or some politically active religious pressure group?

The pro-RH lobby claims surveys have shown that most Catholic women want to use contraception, regardless of what the Church says about it. It is a desperate attempt to show that right or wrong can now be reduced to what you like or dislike. The truth is never the result of surveys. Contraception is wrong not because the Church has banned it; the Church has banned it because it is wrong. No amount of surveys can change that.

5. Destructive of public morals

The bill seeks to impose a hedonistic sex-oriented lifestyle that aims to reduce the conjugal act to a mere exchange of physical sensations between two individuals and marriage to a purely contraceptive partnership.

Not only is it hedonistic, it is above all eugenicist. It seeks to eliminate the poor and the “socially unfit.” While it neither mandates a two-child family nor legalizes abortion, it prepares the ground for both.

In 1974, the US National Security Study Memorandum 200, titled “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,” launched the two-child family as a global population policy to be achieved by 2000. But “no country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion,” said that document.

Now you know what’s next, and where it’s all coming from.

(Former Sen. Francisco S. Tatad represents the Asia-Pacific on the Governing Boards of the International Right to Life Federation, Cincinnati, Ohio and the World Youth Alliance, New York, NY. Comments to

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