RH law incompatible with real freedom, says lawyer

MANILA, Feb. 8, 2013—Say “reproductive health,” “RH bill” or “RH law” and it’s most likely images of the Church, bishops, priests or folks with clenched fists that come to mind as far as heavy mainstream media consumers are concerned. What misinformed individuals totally missed is that, as pointed out by a lawyer, in accepting an RH law, the measure’s supporters allowed the State to deprive the Filipino people of some of their most cherished freedoms.

Discussing the issue by splitting hairs over what “reproduction” and “health” really mean or by comparing population growth rates across the globe can sometimes prevent people from appreciating how the law ends up dictating to citizens rather than promoting their rights.

“I would ask them how they would feel if someone else tells them what they should wear inside their bedroom, or how they would feel if someone told them that to fully feed everyone on the table, some have to give up their food,” said Atty. Ricardo Ribo, a law professor who has been with the academe for some 30 years.

“The first is about one of our cherished freedoms – our very own dignity. The second is about social justice. We are entitled to both because the first is a basic human right and the second is because of the responsibility we have for others,” Ribo explained. “Where is the dignity if a woman has to go to the barangay Health Officer so that an IUD may be inserted into her, in preparation for an anticipated intercourse?”

Authentic social justice

The law professor emphasized how solidarity with the poor should figure in when evaluating the P13.7 billion measure that institutionalized taxpayer-funded artificial contraception and a six-year school-based sex education program. Based on Ribo’s remarks, authentic social justice would consider each person and work to address everyone’s needs rather than promote elimination of additional members to the human family or regard any soul as a burden to the State.

“Ever wonder why we say ‘patawad po’ to a beggar when we fail to give alms? We have done nothing wrong yet we seek his forgiveness. Obviously this comes from the innate responsibility we have for our less privileged brothers… to those who have less, more should be shared,” the lawyer pointed out.

“Unfortunately, this realization cannot cope with the rapid advancement of technology and the demands of a day-to-day subsistence…so from time to time, each of us should share in that responsibility of reminding others that there’s more to life than self-gratification and fulfillment,” he added, alluding to the apparently opposite message that the RH law – through its institutionalized taxpayer-funded contraception and a six-year sex education program – will work to ingrain in the people.

During the months and, specifically, weeks prior to President Benigno Aquino III”s Dec. 21, 2012 secret signing of the measure into law, the RH bill concern came to be regarded as a “Church issue” or a “religious issue.” Unfortunately, this confused many and deprived them of truly understanding the secular points that explained the anti-women and anti-freedom nature of the measure.

Ribo, while acknowledging these concerns as vital, chose to highlight other points in the petition against the RH law filed with the Supreme Court (SC) by the Philippine Alliance ofXseminarians (PAX), of which he is founding president.

“We are all created in the image of our Creator,” he said, adding that in underscoring this reality, nowhere did citations from the Church Magisterium figure into the petition.  There was no need to, as previous decisions of the SC had already affirmed this conviction.

If every Filipino believed the human person’s filial link to Divine and thereby understood the dignity with which each is bestowed, the injustice of the birth control measure would be clearer, Ribo said.

“Can you imagine if everyone truly believed that we are in His image and likeness, that we are Temples of the Holy Spirit? If this first premise is correct, then artificial contraception provided for by RH is all wrong,” the lawyer said.

“Yes, not everything in RH is evil,” he clarified. “It’s the promotion of artificial contraception as a state policy that makes it all wrong. Thus the second point.”

A law that regulates sex?

Unlike most laws, Ribo pointed out, the RH bill never mentioned its objectives.

“[The proponents] claim it’s reproductive health, but if you look at its definition it’s all about artificial contraception. So what activity is sought to be regulated?” he asked. “None other than sexual intercourse with an option to use artificial contraception.”

“Soon [the Book of] Genesis will have to be amended,” he quipped.

The petition filed by PAX is only one of seven filed against the RH law. Ribo will be tackling the issue more on Saturday, Feb. 9, in a talk titled “Understanding the problems of Republic Act 10354 and what the SC petitions are all about” to be held at the CBCP Conference Room, Intramuros, Manila, from 2:00-5:00 pm.

Email cbcp4life@gmail.com or contact Raymond at 0927-5247932 for details. The activity is free of charge but pre-registration is required. (CBCP for Life)

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