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End of finger-wagging?

Somos o no somos? “Are you with us or against us?”. Advocates and opponents of the Reproductive Health measure are deadlocked on whether the bill should be enacted or shredded.

“Either option would not be good,” says a Loyola School of Theology (LST) paper. The Catholic Church bucks provisions that’d fracture conscience. But scrapping the bill won’t dent high rates of infant mortality, maternal deaths, and abortions.

“Such dehumanizing conditions should not continue,” write theologian Eric O. Genilo, S.J,. sociologist , John J. Carroll, S.J., and constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, S.J. Needed is a third option, namely: “critical and constructive engagement.”

Across the road, businessmen urged the debate on RH step back from sterile finger-wagging. A cascade of wizened babies, born of are mothers, trapped into life-long poverty, is a prescription for disaster, agreed Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club and Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development. A compromise solution is urgent.

Amend HB96’s objectionable provisions but retain positive features, LST’s “Option Three” suggests: . The paper offers “talking points” in eight areas: from protection of life, contraceptives to sex education and services within a multi-religious society. Excerpts:

The Constitution directs the state to protect the life of the unborn upon conception. When? Fertilization? Or implant of an embryo in the womb? The Constitution doesn’t say.. “The Church insists on protection of human life upon fertilization.”

This is not hair-splitting. The definition has “a bearing whether contraceptives that prevent the implantation of embryos would be legally allowed.” Medical and legal experts must clarify the definition. “Parameters of what reproductive services can be provided” could then be set.

Is prevention of implantation of an embryo an abortion?. If the state takes this position, then contraceptive medicines and devices, determined as abortifacient, must banned, whether the RH bill is passed or not. Other religious traditions allow contraceptives without abortifacient effects. They're a no-no for Catholics.

Catholic social teaching rejects imposition of norms, by a majority, that discriminates against rights of minorities: Various religions form consciences, in family planning, according to what their faith allows and prohibits. Government has the duty to provide information on all non-abortifacient, (as defined by law), family planning methods.

Can government set up parallel information and training programs., one for natural family planning and another for artificial methods? In both,.the conscience of health workers and trainers, should be respected.

The RH bill mandates sexuality education curriculum. If parents find the curriculum unacceptable, can they insist their children be exempted? The Constitution allows religious instruction in public schools, only if the parents consent in writing HB96 must respect conscientious objection of individual educators. Religious schools should write and implement their own sexuality education curriculum . Public schools and non-religious private schools can appoint panels to write their curriculum. Education Department could monitor both.

Under the RH bill, contraceptives must be stocked as “essential and emergency medicines in government health centers and hospitals” Why? Is pregnancy a disease?

Medical experts can define where a contraceptive is a medically indicated treatment .If some contraceptives are ultimately decided as essential or emergency drugs, no contraceptives with abortifacient effects should be allowed.

The RH bill compels employers to bankroll, in their collective bargaining agreements, reproductive health services of their employees General Philhealth medical coverage --mandatory for all employees --- provides for reproductive health services, upon the employee’s request.. This process allows employers, with religious objections to contraceptives or sterilizations, elbow room. They can avoid direct formal cooperation in such methods.

The bill’s authors stitched in a provision that penalizes “malicious disinformation against the intention and provisions of the bill.” Just what constitutes “malicious disinformation”? The authors don’t say.

Haunted by the dictatorship’s gag on liberty of expression, people insist on a precise definition.. “Failing that, the provision should be scrapped.”

“A man’s creed is as good as his deeds”. So, what about the implementation, assuming a compromise measure passes. ?

Representatives from major religious traditions should be represented in the committee tasked to oversee “implementing norms”, the LST paper suggests: This would “ensure that the rights of people of various faiths would be protected.”

The “talking points” seek “to generate constructive and respectful dialogue” , write the Loyola school professors. Finger-wagging is pointless. Negotiations are “a more positive step” towards working for the good of all, specially “the unborn, the youth, women and families in difficult circumstances.

“We need to come to a consensus for the common good”. Some issues can be left to individual decisions “We need to respect freedom of conscience of every Filipino”

“We are members of the same human family and community.” The rule should be: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”


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About the Author
Juan L. Mercado Juan L. Mercado is a veteran journalist who started as a report in the early 1950s. He covered the United Nations (UN) in New York and served as a correspondent for foreign publications. He is the founding director of the Philippine Press Institute. He writes columns for the national daily and the regional community newspapers. The Rotary Club of Manila named him “Journalist of the Year” in 1968 and “Opinion Writer of the Year” in 2004. / Email:juanlmercado@gmail.com

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