MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/9 Aug) – Opponents of the Reproductive Health Bill have plenty of religion in their minds, but they appear to be defending it at the expense of reason. This can be seen in how the bishops and the diehards among the laity have resorted to apparent blackmails against lawmakers who are supporting the bill, a sure sign that it is fast losing its grip of the situation mainly because it is foolishly clinging to outdated dogmas.
To be clear though, not all of the priests and bishops are opposing the bill. Those who do are being selective and myopic by focusing on the supposed side effects of using artificial contraceptives in general while ignoring the positive net effect of giving women access to reproductive health care and knowledge. Worse – and this is where they are engaged in intellectual dishonesty – they lump contraception and abortion as one and the same thing, as an anti-RH Bill ad being aired on a local church-run radio station would have us believe.
And while it would appear that their objections are based mainly on health reasons, the bigger motive is to force government, Congress in particular, to reject a bill that they consider contrary to Catholic doctrines.
I submit that that the priests and bishops – although not all of them oppose the bill – may convince the people, regardless of beliefs, that artificial means of contraception is unacceptable and that they should stick to the natural family planning methods. But that is the farthest they can go. They can’t possibly demand that the RH Bill, or any other bill for that matter, should conform to the infallible tenets of one religion.
The problem with the church is that it ignores people who have no regard for the Scriptures either because they are not Catholics or they wish to debate on the issue from a rational standpoint. By its arrogance and irrationality in relation to the debate on the bill the church has only made it clear that it would not countenance laws perceived to be contrary to its teachings.
Indeed, rationality is one thing the bishops need at this moment. Proof of their irrationality is their continuing threats to campaign against the bill’s sponsors and supporters in the 2013 elections even after they failed to muster a sizeable crowd in a rally over the weekend at the Luneta. Only around 10,000 came, the same number that attended an anti-RH rally at the same venue in May last year.
Moreover, if the bishops still care to remember, they campaigned against candidate Benigno Aquino III in the 2010 presidential elections, but that did not sway the vote in this predominantly Catholic country. That the voters ignored the bishops’ call to elect a president who is anti-RH only bolstered several surveys that showed that at least 65 percent of Filipinos support the bill.
Aquino III’s victory and the survey results proved that the era of Padre Damaso is over. Now is an opportune time for the State to enact a law on reproductive health rights that people of all religious convictions find acceptable. After all – and this is what the bishops would not tell the faithful many of whom have not even read the text of the bill – parents will be allowed to make a conscientious choice between natural and artificial family planning methods. On the part of the church, nothing prevents it from convincing the people to rely on natural methods of contraception.
If the bishops are reasonable enough, they should find this acceptable. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)