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You know that I have nothing against a Reproductive Health Bill. On the contrary, I believe that a more comprehensive Public Health Bill should be legislated to benefit the poor and the marginalized in our country. I appreciate the efforts of our legislators to draft a better version of the Reproductive Health Bill with House Bill 4244: “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development.” But I am obliged in conscience to voice my concern over some inconsistencies in the present consolidated bill and to take exception to some of the claims in the petition “Pass the RH Bill Now” that was circulated among select professors in Ateneo and UP. What are the “major, major” problematic areas that I find in HB 4244? A. The Beginning of “Human Life” There are 29 terms defined in SEC. 4 of the Bill, but no definition at all of the meaning of “conception.” But this is a central issue. When does the “conception” of human life begin: at fertilization or at the implantation of the embryo in the womb? The medical community seems inclined towards fertilization, that is, when the zygote that is formed possesses all twenty-three (23) chromosome pairs, equivalent to all the genetic material needed to constitute a distinct human being. If “fertilization” has already occurred (whether in utero or in vitro), then we are dealing with human life, properly speaking, human life which is protected by the Philippine Constitution. Consequently, contraceptives preventing the implantation of an embryo would then be considered having an abortifacient effect, and hence, illegal, according to our Constitution. These should be categorically banned, whether the RH Bill is passed or not.1 Is it too much to ask for a clarification on this non-negotiable principle? B. Freedom of Choice (bis), but no “Conscience”? The copy of the RH Bill (apparently not the actual HB 4244 but an earlier version) that was attached with the petition repeats this provision: “Freedom of choice, which is central to the exercise of right must be fully guaranteed by the State” (first mentioned in SEC. 3a, and then again in SEC. 3c2). Forgive me for making this observation, but I could not help but ask: How many of our “enlightened citizenry,” who answered surveys and even signed petitions, have actually read the latest version of the Bill and noticed inconsistencies and typographical errors? Above all, I was wondering why, while “freedom of choice” was emphasized, the “respect for moral and religious conscience” never figured in the list of guiding principles. You will perhaps cite SEC. 28.3a as application of this latter principle: “Provided, That, the conscientious objection of a healthcare service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another healthcare service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible who is willing to provide the requisite information and services.” One can very well imagine a scenario like this, however… Healthcare service provider to patient: “Listen, I think it is immoral to do this procedure because it is tantamount to an abortion; but here is someone who could do it for me…”
See “Talking Points for Dialogue on the Reproductive Health Bill” (July 2010) issued jointly by Loyola School of Theology and the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, Authors: Fr. Eric O. Genilo, S.J., Fr, John J. Carroll, S.J., and Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. 2 SEC. 3c should read: “Since human resource is among the principal asset of the country, maternal health, safe delivery of healthy children and their full human development and responsible parenting must be ensured through effective reproductive health care.”
I don’t see how it is possible to write a comprehensive sexuality and values education curriculum for at least six grade levels (Grade Five to Fourth Year High School) in a year’s time . 16): I believe an education in sexuality is necessary.g. but it is the “mandatory” nature in this provision that I find problematic. that it takes years to develop a good course curriculum! Unless. but could be a violation of the Catholic conscience of some employers. especially our poor kababayan? Should we not do our utmost to give our poor kababayan the best of Philippine education since they are the ones who stand most in need of it? Surely you would see it a duty for both legislators and educators to give more careful thought to this “mandatory” provision and to amend it accordingly? As an educator. but also practically unfeasible. or the activation and development of a well-informed conscience? This is important because it bears on a number of other provisions in the bill. what makes for authentic human freedom and development: Is it freedom of choice per se. 2) would backfire and be counted against you as irresponsible and “malicious” disinformation! SEC. Payatas) have been pilot testing the UNFPA and DepEd program Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) Through Life Skills-Based Education. of course. when it fosters a sense of human dignity. Sexuality education. imagine this scenario at the Health Office: “Could the Ateneo (a Catholic Jesuit University) please pay for my vasectomy?” B. as educators in this university. .” but why is the sexuality education program on trial co-produced by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)?] Honestly. You would know. as it stands. I personally find SEC. B. can only be a humanizing education when it is also an education in freedom and responsibility. You claim that HB 4244 “is not a population control bill. 21 on Employers’ Responsibilities is not only redundant (we already have PhilHealth). “Mandatory” Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education (SEC. would you suffer your own children to have to undergo a “mandatory” sexuality education that is ill-prepared. Again.2. In similar vein. then your own petition’s claim (on p. not only morally problematic. 28e should be dropped. 3a (freedom of choice) because it violates the freedom of Catholic educators and parents to choose a sexuality education that is consistent with their moral and religious beliefs. and its application is made mandatory to both public and private schools. why would it be acceptable to others. moreover.. If the Bill passes. especially since it bears on a matter that is so close to the heart and soul of the human person? Sexuality is so vital an energy. as a matter of fact. dear colleagues. would this not violate the conscience of Catholic educators who would be compelled to teach parts of the curriculum that they find morally unacceptable? This provision. so powerful a force that it would be a challenge for any serious educator to help our young people find ways to channel this energy in ways that are truly lifegiving. without your being able to have any say in it as a parent? If an inadequately prepared sexuality curriculum would not be acceptable for your own children. So much for promoting Filipino values! [I heard that some of the public schools in Metro Manila (e. Regarding SEC. even if you have five agencies working together on it. 28e on “Prohibited Acts”: What assures us that the sincere effort to articulate the demands of conscience would not be counted as “malicious” disinformation? And. SEC.3. contradicts the first guiding principle of SEC.2 So much lip service to respect of ethical and religious beliefs! After all. our legislators envision simply borrowing the existing education program of SIECUS (the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States). namely: B. 16. How do you train teachers for this daunting task. IF “scientific” studies one day conclusively prove that condoms DO NOT effectively protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).1.
and have been rewarded by their sharing of precious insights regarding the RH Bill. How could we speak of real concern and compassion for “the poor and the marginalized” when we can’t even protect the most vulnerable human being: the unborn child? How do we truly empower our women when we do not sensitize them to care for the gift and miracle that is human life? I do not think I am alone in voicing these objections. bronchitis. As a Filipina. needs to update its own list of medically and environmentally safe “essential” medicines. dengue. we could ask her permission and she could lend you a copy for your personal perusal and/or refer you to other scientific journals related to the topic. I feel morally obliged to demand some basic clarification as well as a deeper reflection in the drafting of this bill. Their position regarding House Bill 4244 is up to their conscience.. etc. I do not see how HB 4244.” Even the World Health Organization. I thank you for listening to my efforts to make my Christian faith dialogue with reason. Further Suggestions: The section on “essential” medicine should include a provision for a constantly updated list of medically and environmentally safe non-abortifacient medicines. SEC. But because the questions I posed are real questions of conscience. her hesitation to have her thesis explicitly cited. influenza. 10) If “essential” medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population. Correspondingly. coronary heart disease. and national development” when we are not even sensitized to listen. But I wonder how we as a people could speak of achieving the broad goals of “social equity.g. levonorgestrel (the hormonal ingredient in the “morning-after pill”) is actually included in the “WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. an Environmental Science Major. But it is not my wont to circulate a petition to get “kakampi” among my colleagues.e. . low-risk pregnancy is considered a “disease. Hence. There is much that 3 4 E. 28 on “Prohibited Acts” should include a provision against promoting and obtaining the substandard contraceptive products of pharmaceutical companies that would contrive. of course. but to conduct scientific inquiry towards the development of policies and protocols for wastewater treatment facilities. much less allow the dissent of moral and religious conscience. if you are interested. an educator and a Catholic layperson.. Empowerment of Women and the Poor Please do not get me wrong. Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines (SEC. tuberculosis. My student’s undergraduate thesis was done under a research grant. unless. diarrhea.4 Incidentally. to pass these off as “essential” medicines. perhaps we need to “scientifically” identify these.3 C. I do believe that our less privileged kababayan deserve the best in education and in health care. Statement: Unless these problematic portions of the consolidated bill are amended. but also to the environment. it seems. I don’t see how it could justify the inclusion of contraceptives as “essential” medicines. I raise these questions not from a purely academic concern. as it presently stands. through unscrupulous individuals and groups. not to find evidences against the RH Bill. levonorgestrel) can even be harmful not only to the person using it. tuberculosis. with or without the backing of Church authorities or ideological group mates. I too deserve a hearing. could pass for good legislation. I have always tried to awaken this search for truth and conscience among my own students. etc. Surely the medical and scientific community could help us on this.” One of my students. pneumonia. malaria. pointed out in her undergraduate thesis that some oral hormonal contraceptives (i. And I make this appeal to our legislators who “rely on scientific evidence when they craft legislative proposals”: Could you not show a little more respect for our moral and religious convictions? D.3 If this priority list does not include Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). But. among others. poverty reduction.
If there is indeed “overwhelming scientific evidence” to support the claims of the present RH Bill. Unless there is a real effort to attain an intelligent conversation between the Christian gospel and contemporary [“scientific”] culture – with all its plurality and richness. mga kapatid: HAPPY FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION! Today’s feast (March 25th) celebrates the “Conception” of the WORD in the human womb of MARY. its passions and struggles. ARNELLA FRANCIS CLAMOR (Arni) Assistant Professor. A deeper quality of discourse is achieved when you challenge students to struggle with the text and think for themselves. The Church hierarchy has been much criticized for refusing to dialogue with those who support the RH Bill. As a final word. many of my students who initially fully supported the RH Bill were obliged by “reason” to temper their enthusiasm – and eventually revised their position – when confronted by the inconsistencies they discovered upon a close reading of the Bill.4 we could learn from each other and from our students. Stock arguments that either demonize or canonize the RH Bill neither serve intellectual integrity nor respect moral-religious convictions. dear colleagues. or even the different disciplines in this university to work together to make the benefits of social justice reach the poorest of our poor? You petition says “Pass the RH Bill NOW!” I ask: “WHY pass the RH Bill now when it is clearly in need of REVISIONS?” It is our kababayan who stand to profit from a good piece of legislation. Why not put the same effort to bring Church and State. Yours in Jesus Christ. its convictions and aspirations – I don’t think we do ourselves justice as academics in a Catholic Jesuit University. this could stand under close intelligent scrutiny. allow me to greet you. Theology Department Ateneo de Manila University . DR.” How true! The Pro RH Bill group in this university is very organized in terms of lobbying strategies. However. You say that the academe has “a distinct role to play in achieving social justice and national development. It is also the poorest among our poor who will suffer most when we allow our ideological passions get the better of our search for the common good. academe and masa. Polarizations like these are a disservice to both Church and country. Forgive me for saying this. but I find this way of approaching individual professors in the Ateneo to get signatures for another pro-RH Bill petition a similar refusal of dialogue.
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