Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Don’t amend RH bill, discard it

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That it can, after all, be amended only proves the point that there is no need whatsoever to legislate the reproductive health (RH) bill. The so-called amendment raises some interesting questions. Will it delete parts of the bill that were simply plagiarized from already existing laws? Even before there was a Tito Sotto (and Pia Cayetano, too) in the Senate, many provisions of the RH bill could be found in the already existing Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women. What is the point in another redundancy?

The RH bill also carried provisions copied verbatim—without any attribution—from RA 9262 (Anti-Violence against Women and Children), RA 8504 (Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998), RA 7883 (Barangay Health Workers Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995), RA 7875 (National Health Insurance Act of 1995) and a panoply of other laws, executive orders, department program circulars and policy guidelines. The RH bill, in fact, is the greatest work of plagiarism ever to fool our people.

Now that it has adopted the clause “open to life,” will the bill need no more of the strong lobby of pro-abortion groups?

Cayetano does not deny that three pro-abortion groups are lobbying for the passage of the RH bill. There is the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, just last year a recipient of a $26-million grant from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, one of the world’s biggest abortion providers. Go visit the FPOP website. There one finds a document, “Medical and Service Delivery Guidelines for Sexual and Reproductive Health Services,” that teaches medical and surgical methods for inducing abortion. Read this from that document: “Efforts should be made to inform the public that abortion is safest when performed early, and women who seek abortion should be encouraged to attend as early in the pregnancy as possible.”

The other two are Likhaan and the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). Likhaan has published a manual that includes “Mga ligtas na paraan ng pagpapalaglag” (Safe abortion methods”). A section describes how the act is performed: Tinatanggal ang binubuntis sa pamamagitan ng paghigop, gamit ang ispesyal na tubo (cannula) na pinapadaan sa puwerta at cervix papasok sa matris. Puwedeng gawin ito na hindi pinapatulog ang babae, pero minsan, iniiniksyunan ng gamot sa cervix para makatulong sa sakit. Sa manu-manong proseso (manual vacuum aspiration o MVA), tinatanggal ang binubuntis sa pamamagitan ng ispesyal na heringgilya (syringe). Kung hindi, gumagamit ng maliit na makinang de-kuryente.

WGNRR is headed by UP professor Sylvia Estrada Claudio, a favorite resource person of television talk shows where she does not openly say her group is pro-abortion. Among its specific goals as an abortion advocate are to seek for “ways to improve access despite the law,” sharing of “experiences and strategies about how to confront religious fundamentalists,” and finding the “best practices for linking abortion rights to other social justice and human rights campaigns.” Linking abortion to human rights? That is certainly a wide stretch of the imagination.

And all along it has been said that linking the RH bill to abortion was just a bogey. It is not. There truly are pro-abortion groups rallying behind the bill. And the reason is already known to us from the examples seen in all countries that have legislated the use of artificial contraception: It opens the gate to legalized abortion. That is why groups like Likhaan and WGNRR are waiting very avidly at the doorstep, making sure that the RH bill is crafted in a way that it will later facilitate the legalization of abortion. If that was the pattern in other countries, tell me how it cannot be in the Philippines. We must be so stupid a people.

Now that RH proponents claim they have made the bill “more acceptable,” does that not contradict what they have been saying all along—that majority of Filipinos want the bill? If it had been watered down, will that not only make the bill less popular in the surveys? The argument that RH is “popular” has always been a fascinatingly non-sequitur. This is one of the densest arguments in the RH bill debate. Surveys do not dictate faith and morals. If 99.99 percent of Filipinos will one day say that murder is acceptable, will that decriminalize murder?

One very audacious argument is on the issue of plurality. It has been said that the Catholic Church is imposing its will on non-Catholics. This has even been argued from the perspective of “constitutionality.” Well, now that the RH bill has been amended reportedly to accommodate the Church’s opposition, will the new version of the bill cater less to a pluralistic society? The premise on pluralism is the wrong one.

Legislating the RH bill will, in fact, prevent Catholics from maintaining their religious identity. Real pluralism recognizes diversity. The RH bill does not. It would be like legislating the prohibition on the wearing of the hijab. Under a real pluralism, the majority cannot discriminate against the minority. Even if the “Catholics for the RH bill” were to constitute a majority, respect should always be accorded to those who wish to follow their official religious magisterium. Pluralism should be the lamest argument ever in this debate.

The devil is in the details. By amending the RH bill, its proponents are actually admitting the truth that those against RH have long argued for. Amending is like saying that indeed we can do away with the RH bill. Esperanza Cabral is our yardstick. She said “the basic principles are still there.” Well said.

 

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