On the Reproductive Health Bill

I will not bother with the technicalities and provisions of the Reproductive Health Bill that is being debated in the House of Representatives. You can read the contents of the bill and decide for yourself. Just the same, let me express my support for the bill, with my main argument centering on the freedom of choice and the government’s duty to provide its citizens the widest choice possible when it comes to reproductive health.

First, the freedom of choice is not explicitly stated in the Constitution. Instead, it is divided into several freedoms as stated in the Bill of Rights (Article III), like (but not limited to) freedom of speech and of expression, freedom of religious worship, and the non-imposition of a poll tax.  Also, in Roman Catholic theology, free will is universally accepted and respected (there’s an “as long as” after that, but I leave that to theologians). When a man and a woman gets married, they do so on their own choice and free will (unless it’s an arranged or shotgun wedding). When a married couple choose to have children or not, they do so on their own choice and free will. Whatever mode of family planning that they choose, the Church and the government has no right to interfere with the said choice (as long as the choice is not incompatible with existing laws); nor does it have the right to deny the choice as long as it is not contrary to law. The Church may morally convince the couple to choose the natural method, but since it has lost the power to impose its will (come on, excommunication is just an empty threat), it can do no more.

Second, I have already stated this before (in the post The Church and the State), and I will state it again: “The Government must promote (not push) artificial family planning to those who are willing to use it. It should not be denied to those who need it most. I believe that the policy should be of promotion, not institutionalization.” Let me refine by saying that the government must promote all family planning methods. This is the Government’s duty.

Unfortunately, the current regime has chosen to act as part of the Catholic Taliban and made natural method its family planning policy. So a poor couple (and the woman has an irregular period) who wants to control the number of offspring cannot expect the government to hand them out condoms and/or pills. I think this policy violates the couple’s freedom of choice. This is a gross dereliction of duty by this regime.

I believe that the Reproductive Health Act (if enacted) will hopefully correct this abusive, short-sighted, and counterproductive policy. It makes the policy a law so that a tyrant cannot just arbitrarily impose his/her religious belief on everyone. The RH Bill is a step in the right direction.

But I am not that hopeful about the future of the bill. The delaying tactics by congressmen on both sides of the aisle (I am terribly disappointed with the opposition, to be honest) is working, and the bill might pass by a very narrow vote (or be utterly defeated). And what about the Senate version? The Senate is having one of its obligatory intramural, and most likely the counterpart bill would be shuffled in the recycled bin. And even it it passes the Senate, Gloria Arroyo can always veto it. Depending on how the votes go, both Houses of Congress would need more than just a simple majority to overturn the veto. So, yes, it is an uphill climb, and the future is bleak. But who knows? Divine intervention might choose to exercise divine irony.

The success of the bill’s local counterpart in Quezon City is an exception unless other local governments enact similar ordinances. It can be done, and it is more manageable.

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