MANILA, SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 (STAR) FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas - The best thing that has happened over the last two days in Congress is that Speaker Prospero C. Nograles has declared that he will commission women members of the House of Representatives and the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. to conduct “all-women” district consultations on the Reproductive Health bill. He said that he will maintain “cold neutrality” in the bill, and that he is publicly neither for nor against the measure until he has listened to “all sides.”
I have reservations, though, about what he said — that since women are the ones directly affected by the measure, “Let’s hear it from the women themselves.”
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Sure, women are the ones directly affected by the measure — in terms of women being the ones who conceive, carry on pregnancies through the full term, and give birth — and so experience the dangers of unplanned and too-frequent pregnancies. They are the ones whose wombs and vaginas suffer wear and tear from too many childbirths. And they are the ones who know the harsh reality of having too many children the family budget can ill afford.
Yes, it would be good for them to tell the women members of the House and the Congressional spouses their problems — and I hope their voices will be heard and conveyed to the House who will vote for or against the passage of the Reproductive Health bill. I hope the spouses will listen with their hearts and minds, and not to how a vote for the bill will affect their husbands’ or wives’ chances of reelection in the next polls.
I am distressed by the remark of the Speaker — well-meaning that it is supposed to be — about only women from Congress conducting the district consultations. Perhaps in our culture, that is acceptable — i.e., having heart-to-heart talks with women about women’s problems.
But male representatives should listen to their female — and male — constituents — and not just to bishops and priests who condemn to hell those who do not practice Natural Family Planning and the Basal metabolism technique. What is most upsetting is that the Pro-Life force brands the bill as espousing abortion, which HB 5043 — authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman, a Roman Catholic, says is not. In his sponsorship speech, Lagman said, “we must open our minds to the import and merits (of the bill) and reject contrived criticisms, expose barefaced lies, refute malicious innuendoes and resist menacing threats. We must not fear to legislate because it is courage which is the handmaiden of good and vital law.’’
Which is why I think male legislators, too, should listen to what their constituents think about the bill.
I certainly would like to be present in one of those consultative meetings.