Thursday, September 11, 2008

On The Reproductive Health Bill

I maintain a hard-line stance supporting the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill because of two incidents that have happened in my life.

At the age of 19, I had been bleeding for about a month and went to a private obstetrician’s office.  I consulted about my condition as I concluded the worst.  As the MD was taking my history, she learned that I was still single.  I cannot describe the disbelief on her face as she learned of this fact.  She then proceeded to ask me in a voice loud enough to be heard in the waiting room:

-And you’re still single?

Yes Doctor.

-And you’re here because you’ve been bleeding for a month?

Yes, Doctor.

-And you’ve been having sexual relations?

Yes, Doctor.  (Repeat 5 times).

On the sixth round of the conversation, I mumbled something and stepped out of her office into a waiting room full of pregnant women staring.  It was only years later that I realized that my health may have been in serious peril.  Back then it was just an inconvenience.  Those zealots made it impossible for me to gather up the courage to go to another doctor. 

The second incident was when my daughter got pregnant at the age of 15.  It was a scandal in our openly religious city.  She was enrolled in a Catholic school and was, not surprisingly, promptly expelled.  I had wanted her to remain in school but it was impossible to find one willing to accept her in this condition.  Finally, a small Baptist school near the outskirts of the city took her in.  They had exemplified what being Christian truly was.  To this day, I am grateful for their unconditional acceptance.

Then the nuns from her old school made a strange request.  They asked that my daughter’s attendance from their school be stricken from the transcript!  I was supposed to ask the Baptists to LIE for them?

In Manila where these things are more commonly accepted, I know of Catholic schools that retain these single, pregnant girls.  However, they are often required to stay away from the general population.  Mostly these girls are home-schooled, taking their examinations in campus at night or supervised at home.  They're rarely acknowledged in normal conversation and usually spoken of in whispers or as the subject of gossip.

Catholic guilt makes it taboo to even talk about the subject of sexual relations.  It’s a costly mistake I made, not speaking to health-care professionals or discussing these with my daughter or parents.   Now I know that when intelligently and openly discussed, reproductive health care awareness will benefit everyone.  Nobody can second-guess me, what if the atmosphere is finally right and I can openly teach abstinence to my children?  It's the safest alternative, no doubt.  There is a massive outcry on the Bill that most have yet to see.  In other countries, this Bill is deemed anti-life.  Worse yet, some have claimed that a "Two-Child policy" will be imposed, not unlike China's "one-child" policy.  The ignorant are the most vocal about this, yet nowhere in the Bill is abortion or population control is mentioned.  In fact the title of the Bill includes the words "Population Development."

The Church is obstinate regarding extramarital relations, which I totally accept as a Catholic Filipina.  However, to deny the health care and information to all is to deny them their right to choose.  This interference with legislation reeks of a modern-day Inquisition.  Will the Church actually involve our Muslim sisters? How about those without access or unable to obtain quality service?  The proposed Reproductive Health Care Bill is national in scope, providing for each Filipino regardless of age, religious affiliation or economic status.

A post on pinoyexchange says it best:  Instead of meddling in political affairs, the Church should focus on attending to the Church should focus on attending to the spiritual and corporal needs of its flocks. In my opinion, if the Philippine Catholic Church is really intent on overstepping the boundaries, it should focus instead on preaching “Thou shalt not kill” of the extrajudicial killings and “Thou shalt not steal” from the national coffers.  

Rather than following blindly, please make an informed choice by reading the Inquirer article  Reproductive Health Bill: Facts, fallacies penned by the author of House Bill 00017, Rep. Edcel Lagman. The full text of this bill is still unavailable in the Philippine Congress website, but to view its history, please click here.  Read the significance of "Humanae Vitae" on these events.  Read articles for and against the controversial bill.  Finally, read this eye-opening opinion which cites a problem far larger than the issues at hand.

This Online Petition supports the immediate passage of this Bill into law.  Please sign up after reviewing all available opinions/facts.

One of the articles claims that Saint Thomas Aquinas had said "...anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority in ignorance of true fact imposes a demand that offends against his clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience."

Go ahead, excommunicate me.

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