Bishops condemn sudden advance of contraception bill

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Archbishop Jose Serofia Palma of Cebu, Philippines.

The Catholic bishops of the Philippines have said the national legislature’s recent vote to end discussion on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill was a “display of naked power” and a “brazen disregard of the basic tenets of fair play.”

“The Catholic Church and those who are similarly minded ask for nothing more than fairness. After all, we have as much right to expose the dangers and ills of the bill as those who promote it. So much is at stake in this fight for life,” the Philippines bishops’ conference president Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu said Aug. 13.

The vote on the bill was originally scheduled for Aug. 7 in the Philippines House of Representatives. However, allies of President Benigno Aquino III, who supports the legislation, voted to advance the bill a day early at a caucus of Liberal Party leaders and members.

The bishops said that the scheduled vote meant “every side would have been ready and prepared to defend its cause as in any democratic setting.”

“Except for the cabal of schemers, people were caught off-guard by the suddenness of the execution, especially those who oppose the Bill on faith or principle,” Archbishop Palma said on behalf of the bishops’ conference. “We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals. We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”

The legislation mandates “age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” from fifth grade through high school. It also uses taxpayer funds to subsidize contraceptives. President Aquino has said the bill is needed to reduce high birthrates among the poor.

Archbishop Palma said bill opponents want to protect women’s health against “harmful” contraceptives, preserve parental authority, protect youth against “valueless” sex education, and prevent “wrongful discrimination” against the poor. He charged that the bill gives billions of pesos for contraceptives while many poor people die of cancer, tuberculosis, dengue and other ailments.

“In the face of a well-funded campaign to have the RH Bill passed as envisioned by foreign institutions, and despite the undeserved attacks it is reaping, the Catholic Church stands firm in its resolve to fight this deadly measure at every turn and no matter the cost ― all for love of God, flock, and country,” the archbishop said.

He questioned the population control assumptions of the bill, noting that countries like Singapore now regret having adopted anti-population programs.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew recently repeated his call for citizens to have more children in the face of population decline, according to Yahoo News.

“If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens,” the prime minister said.

Though the bill still must pass through an amendment phase, the archbishop questioned the legislature’s surrender of its discretion to “an intrusive president.”

Archbishop Palma praised the “bravery and dedication” of legislators who oppose the bill. He urged Catholics to unite against the legislation.

“Intensify your prayers and let your voices be heard and your actions seen against this deadly measure,” he said. “Truth is on our side.”

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