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Impress me, Convince me: A Call to Those Opposing the RH Bill

Two friends of mine sipped coffee at Bo’s after what to them was a disappointing forum on the RH bill sponsored by the local Catholic Church. They were amazed by the lack of information, the drought of reason, and the argumentum ad misericordiam employed by those who said that the RH bill should be junked. The lady, mother of two, asked, “Why should an intellectual forum on a bill be reduced to an attack to our conscience? Why does the church have to repeat all over and over again that to kill is bad?” His companion replied, “I do not really see the point. I have not seen a provision there that says that the bill can be made responsible for deaths of unborn children. I do not really know what they are objecting about.”

“Impress me, convince me.”

These were the words that echoed in my mind when I heard the conversation. I heard it first in a reality show looking for fresh new talents, shouted by one of the three judges at a contestant doing an interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Knocks me off my feet”. The same words I think are hurled at those opposing the RH bill, more particularly to the vocal Catholic Church.

Reproductive health, or more specifically, population control is not a new issue. Every time it surfaces as a government program or a proposed law, the Catholic Church is always at the forefront in opposing it. So the issuance of the CBCP letter, read recently in Catholic churches across the archipelago, is not altogether new. The increased vigour of the church in holding public information campaigns, oftentimes in friendly venues, is not new. And the arguments are also not new, sad to say.

CBCP said that the RH Bill does not promote reproductive health because of the word “contraceptive”. Contraceptives kill....they cause cancer. This is not new.

CBCP said that the RH Bill contraceptives increase abortion rates. Again, this is not new.

CBCP said that that the RH Bill will increase instead the incidence of HIV AIDS. Again, this is not new.

CBCP said that the RH Bill does not empower women with ownership of their own bodies.

These recycled arguments, wanting of proof and evidence, are not new. To argue on the basis of “contraceptives are hazardous to a woman’s health” is not convincing when it comes from a male-led and composed Church organization. To say that “scientists have known for a long time that contraceptives may cause cancer” or that “scientists have noted numerous cases of contraceptive failure” without any reference to whoever was the scientist sound too unscientific and preposterous. To argue that “In some countries where condom use is prevalent, HIV/AIDS continues to spread“ is an utter disregard of evidence-based policy research on sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptive use.

My greatest disappointment in the pastoral letter (and those homilies of our priests), is the way it was written. It was written as if you do not have people in the audience who may want to question its assumptions. It was written as if the reader or the listener will take it as infallible truth. It was written without necessarily putting in proof, convincing proof that would impress all of us and sing and sway “No to the RH Bill”.

And here comes the Church again saying that the problem of this country is not overpopulation and that poverty is not caused by more people, but by “flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures” (CBCP, 2011). I absolutely agree.

But I also know that having two children now requires more resources than the time me and my wife only had one. I also know that I my take home pay is bigger than my co-teacher (in the same salary bracket as I am) who has 6 kids. Population matters, this is an argument that is hard to ignore. The church may be able to argue the weak link of population and poverty in a macro-economic scale, but not in a household economy. One does not have to get married to know these things.

I also know that my church has wealth but its social action programs are wanting. A church for the poor is a hollow promise in this part of the globe, save for those who are really actively implementing programs that intend to lift "believers" from their poverty and not just appease them of the thought of an "afterlife". I also know that my church is only active in holding responsible parenthood forums only when a new reproductive health program is introduced, or when a bill is about to be passed.

A friend told me, that I am saying all these because I am not a real Catholic, because a real Catholic values life. Maybe, this will be the reaction of the others who will come to read this paper. I need not defend whether or not I value life. But before I will be able to say that I will reject the RH Bill, I should be made to understand how it does not value life and why it needs to be opposed.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Society of Jesus said “that a shot-gun approach to the RH Bill will not succeed. You don’t burn an entire house to make lechon. Nor will a Tahrir Square type of a demonstration stop it. Such an approach can be a manifestation of intellectual bankruptcy. One must challenge each specific objectionable part and argue it out” (PDI 14 February 2011). Well written, well said, from somebody who incidentally comes from the church but nevertheless believes that the RH bill do not flunk standards of a law.

Indeed, what does the Church really object about in the RH bill? What particular provisions does it challenge? Is there nothing good about the law that it needs to be junked outright? What really is objectionable about it?

Come on. Impress me, convince me. Don’t tell me I need to junk the bill because it is my moral obligation. Better still; do not tell me that my questioning your stand makes me less of a member of this Church that Christ built.


bagi said…
so true folder of position papers submitted by various religious sectors, schools, orgs, etc... is overflowing. there is indeed lack of information based on what i read. sad to say that the church is using their influence to assert their stand and entreat on people's conscience :(
Miko Cañares said…
that is true gi. what i really would have wanted is for the church to tell us what is wrong in the provision of the law. for example, there is even a phrase there that says one of the components of the Reproductive Health Care Program is prevention of abortion. Is this any way objectionable? I bet not. People needs to be informed. And for goodness sake, let them decide!
Unknown said…
Miko i would like to share this opinion also by a Catholic priest on the vagueness of the Church's stand on RH Bill.

Also my view on the way they made their info drive:
Anonymous said…
a priest was asked why the catholic church is opposed to the RH bill and he said 'simple lang, kon mag control na sa population, wa nay madisgrasya og kabuntis. wa nay makasal kalit, mabunyagan etc. mohinay ang cash flow sa simbahan'.
John said…
While the rest of the ENTIRE PLANET is worried about the effects that the ballooning global population is having on the earth's limited resources, religious leaders in the Philippines have their heads stuck in the sand, arguing about the "immorality" of contraception and about "abortifacient" contraceptives (which is a contradiction in terms - what's there to abort, when conception is prevented to begin with?).

The country is overcrowded already, its resources stretched to its limits. For a VERY, VERY small country in terms of area, we are the 12TH LARGEST IN POPULATION.

Miko Cañares said…
Thanks dik for the link. Instantly I become a big fan of rannie aquino. also your story of the saturday seminar on the RH bill speaks of how good they are in planning their advocacy work right?

John, galabad na jud akong ulo sugod unsaun pagsabot ang simbahan on its stand. This afternoon, HNU is holding a forum on the RH Bill, shotgun, all are required to attend, but I am not sure if I will I might not be able to control myself. Frs. Malanog and Oncog are presenting....hope they will deliver.
kee said… matter what happens, the Church will forever say NO to that bill or maybe a law in the future...the church will strongly stand that it's all about LIFE.,that life is the most important thing in this world..that a person has to exist first before he dies for whatever reason, be it poverty,overpopulation..,
after all, it is not length of life, but depth of life...
John said…
@ Miko:

Usa pa nang mga 'compulsory' nga brainwashing activities by religious schools. Labi na nang pang-lockan ang gate kay way pagawason, para mapugos ang tanan ug paminaw.

In other, more enlightened countries, such schools would have been SUED.
Anonymous said…
over the CBCP’s stand against contraception and was even more ballistic over the CBCP’s attempts to equate contraception with abortion. “Contraception can never be abortion. From its very meaning, contraceptives prohibit inception. So if there is no inception, how can that be abortion?”
Anonymous said…
Sections 17 and 22 of the Bill. If the Bill is passed and made into law, an employer, has very easy responsibilities under the law. These are: (1) to not discriminate against women; (2) to respect the choice of employees regarding reproductive health including family planning and birth control; and (3) to provide free delivery of reproductive health care, supplies, and devices to employees.

As regards no. (3), an employer need not really spend for these reproductive health care, supplies, and devices. The government, through the health centers, offer these care, supplies, and services for free. All the employer has to do is to refer their employers who wish to avail of these care, supplies, and services to the health centers.

The penalty under Section 22 is really a penalty, or a punishment so to speak, for the lack of respect by an employer of a worker’s individual choice regarding reproductive health. Section 22 is meant to safeguard an individual’s right to be informed of his or her choices regarding reproductive rights and also such individual’s right to make a personal choice.

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