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Faulty exercise of freedom

Malacanang’s call for a halt to the heated debate on the RH bill is rather too late. This call should have been PNoy’s stance in his UP commencement speech. He would have really looked more like a Statesman and the President of all the Filipinos if he just initially declined to make a stand on the issue because there are still “continued discussions on the bill” which are necessary for them “to come up with a very reasonable measure”, as his spokesman now belatedly says. Ironically, his spokesman is now also giving the impression that the Church “looks at the government as an adversary” when it was PNoy who first said in a perceivably belligerent way, that he is willing to be ex-communicated by the Church for essentially favoring the RH bill a.k.a. “Responsible Parenthood (RP) bill. Naturally such assertion will provoke more debate and discussion.

Malacañang should know that the debate will stop only if the issues are presented clearly and truthfully, if they are met head-on with solid and convincing proof, and if the arguments do not ignore the truth or use deceit. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of debate now taking place.

At this stage, the pro-RH advocates and supporters are presenting as core issue, the freedom of choice; that couples or parents, in the exercise of responsible parenthood, have the freedom to choose between the natural family planning and artificial method of contraception to achieve the desired size of their family. This issue obviously assumes that either method can be chosen. But this assumption is contrary to well established fact that the artificial methods of contraception either kill an unborn child or cause various diseases to mother and children some of which are fatal. Hence artificial methods cannot be freely chosen because they violate the law or is harmful to the physical health of individuals and the moral health of society.

Specifically, it has been pointed out time and again that birth control pills directly cause abortion or indirectly lead to abortion. This has long been established by medical science and cannot be denied. Therefore choosing and using them violates not only the Constitution requiring protection of the life of the unborn from conception (Article II Section 12) but also the Revised Penal Code penalizing abortion (Articles 256-259).

But the pro choice advocates brusquely dismiss this point by clinging to the theory used in justifying abortion - that life begins at implantation of the fertilized ovum in the mother’s womb and not at conception. Undoubtedly this theory is clearly contrary to medical findings and scientific reference works consistently declaring that life begins at conception. In fact the framers of our Charter have already recognized and affirmed that human life begins at conception. Hence they provide in the Constitution that the State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception.

Even then, pro-choice advocates still insist on giving the people freedom to choose the birth control pills with a sweeping and bare denial that the RH bill is for abortion and with a curt statement they are also against abortion. Apparently this position is self-contradictory and can only be interpreted to mean that the RH bill advocates are against abortion but they recognize the right of others to choose artificial methods that may cause abortion. So they are actually advocating freedom without responsibility.

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And this advocacy is anchored on another form of freedom - the supposed “freedom of conscience”. This is a common expression based on the wrong notion that the so called conscience is “free to create its own laws about good and evil”; that it is autonomous or “totally subjective, which ignores the law and determines by itself what is right and wrong”. Hence we often hear from public officials implicated in various wrongdoings the usual expression “my conscience is clear”, as they make blanket denials of the charges; or the very recent expression made after making a stand on the RH bill that “in the end I will just listen to my conscience and do what is right”.

Conscience is “not a speculative assessment, opinion, or judgment on general principles, or a decision about the usefulness or practicality of an action”. Conscience is the “judgment of the intellect on the goodness or evil of an act performed or about to be performed”. Pope John Paul II explained it with greater clarity when he said: “The judgment of conscience has an imperative character; man must act in accordance with it...it is the proximate norm of personal morality...The authority of its voice and judgments from the truth about moral good and evil...This truth is indicated by the “divine law”, the universal and objective norm of morality. The judgment of conscience does not establish the law; rather it bears witness to the authority of natural law and of the practical reason with reference to the supreme good, whose attractiveness the human person perceives and whose commandment he accepts” (Veritatis Splendor).

Another core issue raised in the RH bill is that it is supposedly intended to protect and promote the women’s reproductive health by preventing pregnancy, as if pregnancy is now a disease. But statistics for the past ten years show that maternal mortality rate due to giving birth is not that high as to be considered one of the ten major causes of death among women in the country today. What is intriguing here is that suddenly, news reports are coming out now allegedly showing that 10 or 11 mothers die every day while giving birth. Obviously this is another attempt at pressuring our legislators to pass the bill.

Actually however, assuming the statistics are correct, the RH bill is not the answer to the problem. Maternal and child health care is presently among the functions of the DOH. This rise in maternal deaths shows that DOH is not properly doing its function. Hence improvement of the services in this regard should be made, not the passage of the RH bill.

Finally, it is also wrong to claim that the RH bill should be passed because it is the popular choice of the people. Truth is not determined in a popularity contest. Truth is an objective reality that remains constant regardless of what people say. The RH bill should be passed because it is based on the truth and is for the common good and not because, the survey says so.

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E-mail us at jcson@pldtdsl.net.

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