Christmas and the RH Bill

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Freeman

On the day two asteroids were supposedly passing very close to the Earth, the men and women in Congress voted on the Reproductive Health  Bill (RH Bill). I watched a few of them explain their votes and decided that I did not want their words to be part of my dreams. It was late and listening to elected men and women invoke God and their Roman Catholic religion to justify depriving Filipino women of choices about their bodies seemed like the stuff that nightmares are made of.

I read about the explanation given by the Congressmen I did not see on TV the next day and felt grateful I decided to sleep instead. I did wonder if having the asteroids destroy the Earth would have been a better alternative to having lawmakers who use our being embryos at one point in our lives as a reason for rejecting the RH Bill. A planet obliterated of human beings seemed like an excellent chance to get things right again. I tried to erase that thought and resolved to be more charitable. It’s the Christmas season, after all. I wanted to focus on love, joy, faith, Christmas carols, and fruitcake. I could not. But I keep trying.

I continue to imagine a more just world where the choices of women count. Such choices include the right to pick the kind of contraceptives that suit them. Anti-RH Bill advocates say that some birth control pills are cancerous. Such claims have been debunked by scientists. Just the same, even assuming that they were true, a lot of things in the world may cause cancer. Canned meat, dry cleaning materials, car components, plastic water bottles—some consumer advocates are calling for their ban but I have not heard of rallies seeking to prohibit their use simply because they may cause cancer.

I continue to imagine a world where we truly respect freedom of religion and belief and not merely pay lip service to these principles. One Congressman said that the RH Bill oppressed Catholics. That statement can only come from someone who is not aware of what our laws are. Our laws oppress non-Catholics. How else does one explain the provisions in the Family Code on psychological incapacity for marriage, a principle of Catholic canon law applied to non-Catholics?  It is just sad that he happens to be a lawmaker. Without the RH Bill being passed, non-Catholic uteruses would be effectively controlled by the will of Catholic bishops.

I continue to imagine a Philippines with lawmakers who are brave enough to make the choice that will ensure maternal health care for all Filipino women, who see that reproductive health is one way of achieving that, and who are not afraid of being attacked by Catholic bishops for making this choice.

The Cebuano members of the House of Representatives all chose to vote against the RH Bill. I am aware that the duty of a member of Congress is more than just picking the choice of the majority. If a referendum on the RH Bill were held in Cebu, I am certain that majority of Cebuanos would support it. A member of Congress is a leader who must consider what is best for her or his constituents. By voting against the RH Bill, Cebu’s representatives failed to do that. Because of this, we should all know who not to vote for during the elections in May 2013.


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