From out of the dust bins of the House of Representatives, the Reproductive Health Bill authored by Rep. Edcel Lagman and 48 other members of the House of Representatives was thrown into the center-stage by the very strong and vocal opposition from no less than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. The bill was condemned as if it were the carved from the horns of the devil himself. Bishops all over the country, including the handful I admire and respect, issued pastoral statements and mobilized the faithful against it. From out of the storage bins of oblivion the Repro health bill has become a pariah that congressmen and women who will seek re-election in 2010 (a little more than a year from now) will not touch with a ten-foot pole. the President has given in to the pressures of the Catholic Church, co-authors have withdrawn and apologized to the church. With so much anger and condemnation that resulted in so much fear, the last nail had sealed the bills coffin. Rest in peace Reproductive Health Bill.
What saddens me is not really that the bill suffered a sudden death. This is not the first time that it has died. Every beginning of a new Congress a reproductive health bill is filed and every congress the bill is killed. Again what saddens me is not that it died but how it was killed. The Catholic church simply branded the bill as promoting abortion, that was the death sentence. It has been explained time and again that nowhere in the bill can you find a promotion of abortion. But on this issue, the church leaders will only listen to themselves.
What saddens me is the fact that the issues surrounding the need for a reproductive health bill to be enacted – poverty, high population growth, lack of access to health care and affordable medicines, widespread ignorance about reproductive health – were never raised. The death of the bill has left these issues and concerns unanswered and not addressed. What saddens me is that the church has merely used its coercive force to kill the bill and no debate on the merits and the issues ensued.
I stand in awe at the power and clout that the church is displaying nowadays. I just wished they have used the same power, influence and clout to push for the passage of the CARP reform and extension bill in Congress. I just wished that the church made a stand this strong against the corruption and the impunity that it has witnessed under the Arroyo regime.
Swimming against the current is difficult and painful. Once upon a time, a man swam against the currents of his time. He ended up hanging in glory on a cross. He gives us hope. Swim!