HEALTH & DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES INSTITUTE, INC.
No. 33 B Gen. Malvar St., Brgy. San Antonio, Pasig City Telefax (632) 6389143
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The March of Unreason
As the debate over the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill reaches the highest levels of legislative discussion, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is renewing its efforts to strangle a law that will give the people of the Philippines an fighting chance against the cycle of poverty. Fr. Melvin Castro, the CBCP executive secretary for the Episcopal Commission of Family and Life (ECFL), holds that the official stand of the CBCP is to “mobilize” against the RH bill. But there is another strand of opinion, one that the CBCP does not officially support, but is doing nothing to address: Osamiz Bishop Jesus Dosado’s call for the denial of Holy Communion to politicians found supporting the RH bill.
In the raging debate over reproductive health in the Philippines, there is a basic question that must be engaged to make sense of all the rhetoric coming from both sides: why are people afraid of reproductive health?
In answering this, we must be clear on what reproductive health is and what it isn’t, and then look carefully at how misrepresentation has stirred the emotions of a powerful sector of Filipino society, and spurred them to use their power to force their lack of reason on everyone else in our country.
First, reproductive health is about giving families options before pregnancy; it is NOT abortion. It is through reproductive health that abortion is removed from the possibilities facing a family. What reproductive health does is provide families with a menu of options to prevent unwanted pregnancy; it allows couples the freedom of even considering abortion. In short, one doesn’t need abortion if one isn’t having an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
The essence of reproductive health is to allow families to grow in a healthy manner, without having to worry about unwanted pregnancy and the dilemmas of abortion.
But this is not how powerful elements within the religious community understand reproductive health. Instead of looking at reason behind giving families the power to decide for pregnancy for themselves, the CBCP and other like-minded groups have chosen to take a stand that limits the options of women and has consistently resulted in unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions. Instead of seeing reproductive health as a means to end abortion through proper family planning, they have labeled it as equivalent to the very evil it seeks to address.
Why are they reacting in this manner? It is because of their interpretations of morality, family, and the body. They see reproductive health as contrary to the will of God, the upsetting of His will to decide when a child should be conceived or not. But that’s only one interpretation; what if someone understands God’s will to be ensuring that each pregnancy was wanted and planned for, that each child brought to the family is given the best quality of life the parents can provide? God doesn’t only talk to bishops, but to every one of the faithful. It is highly suspect when people in God-given authority fail to use their God-given reason.
At the end, ill-informed and emotionally driven religious leaders use their power to bully their way and impose themselves on the rest of us. It is an abuse of a Filipino’s sense of religion to use that religiosity to further the political-will of a powerful few. They would deny access to Holy Communion—a believer’s unification with the body Jesus Christ—to those who do not support their illogical stand on reproductive health.
The CBCP and other elements in the Church must be reminded that they cannot use authority as the basis of truth; they must use truth as the basis of authority.
Ms. Gladys R. Malayang, MHA
Telefax: (632) 6389143