The Catholic Church has emphasized that the rejection of the RH bill is not about a Roman Catholic verdict but a reflection of the “fundamental ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people” (Sison 2011). The Church’s position is anchored on her disagreement with the proposal's anti-life stance and problematic attitudes towards issues that affect religious expression. Christianity insists that artificial birth control methods are offensive to life because these tend to suppress the formation of life, particularly in the womb of the mother. In traditional Catholic positions, devices or means that directly hinder the development of life is offensive to life—hence, immoral. In reproductive health language, abortion cases reflect “unmet needs for contraception” which, if used, could have prevented unwanted pregnancies. While the RH framework identifies contraception as a necessary solution in the equation, the Church finds it problematic. It is in this perspective that the fundamental proposals in the bill are deemed immoral. The Church has gathered its forces to show its resistance to the proposal. The resistance has reverberated in many local churches in different parts of the archipelago. The local resistance offered by the Roman Catholic Church is now shared by the evangelical churches, and Islamic believers. These church communities in the country have used every means possible to disarm the threat provided by this proposal.
In response to this political and religious dilemma, this paper describes how the current debate between the Philippine Church and legal proponents on the proposed Responsible Parenthood Bill in congress is anchored on three problematic attitudes and presuppositions that have served to hinder the resolution of the case. The first is the belief in the separation of the Church and State. The second is the attitude towards the family. The third reflects the understanding of human sexuality and life. Data for this inquiry will primarily be taken from historical, doctrinal, and demographic sources and current scholarship on the issues.
The Bill as a Philippine Agenda
The Philippines, through the Philippine Population Management Program (PPMPPOPCOM 2002), has been advocating for decades the enactment of a “comprehensive population bill”. Its vision is “to improve the reproductive health of women, men and adolescents and guaranteed access to family planning information…” (POPCOM 2001a). The planned comprehensive population bill is designed to be an essential component of anti-poverty efforts that wholly address poverty, development and population issues. It makes available contraceptive 1devices and sexual education to the younger population. Obviously, these measures are in response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) conceived in the UN Millennium Summit. The plan perfectly satisfies the goal of tying up reproductive and sexual health rights with the campaign for economic justice and poverty alleviation (Petchesky 2000, 12) so that the observance of the former is attained. Reproductive and sexual health rights are two of the fundamental human rights recognized in the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Towards this end, the government endeavored to ensure the accessibility of RH/FP supplies and services and pursue a reduced fertility replacement level of 2.1 by 2015 among others (POPCOM 2002; POPCOM 2001b). The attainment of these measures reflects government resolve to push forward the “health sector reforms” already crafted in the 80s through determined politicallyassisted “decentralization” efforts (Lakshminarayanan 2003) in the local communities. The reduction in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the country has been the subject of close international attention (Costello and Casterline 2002; Cabigon 2002a; Cabigon 2002b). Until recently, there...
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