Drawing the Line

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By Liwliwa Malabed

The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. organized a press conference on the recent family planning and reproductive health debate on October 5, 2010 at Annabel’s Restaurant, Tomas Morato, Quezon City.

Dubbed Church, State and Family Planning: Draw the Line or Toe the Line?, the gathering opted for a more rational discussion of the controversial issue, after the public’s being bombarded with images of Carlos Celdran and his now legendary whiteboard, and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines filing charges against Celdran for “offending religious feelings.”

The good news is that more Filipinos are talking about the RH bill. RH has gone mainstream: aside from news programs, talk shows are now giving it ample airtime. It has gone over the walls of forums and landed on our plates worthy as a dinnertime topic. If the fact that the lack of a reproductive health policy in the country leads to 11 maternal deaths every day doesn’t do the trick, someone impersonating Rizal and calling the Bishops “Damaso” will. However, FORUM’s presscon reminds the media to look at the issue minus the noise and allow the general public to make a stand against or to conform to the Roman Catholic Church’s dogma, if they choose to.

At the press conference, Dr. Edelina dela Paz, the executive director of the Health Action Information Network and the national coordinator of the Catholics for Reproductive Health Movement, emphasized that Filipinos, whether Catholic or not, should make a stand on the RH bill as this is an issue of life, health and right. Atty. Marlon J. Manuel, counsel for Carlos Celdran and the coordinator of Alternative Law Groups laments the imposition of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine on government policies and on the people. Cong. Kaka Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Party List Representative, added that society is being held hostage by archaic and dogmatic doctrines.

Dr. Junice D. Melgar, executive director of Linangan ng Kababaihan, asserted that it is moral to plan a family. She is critically looking at the Roman Catholic Church for deliberately lying, withholding information and branding provisions in the RH bill evil. Dr. Melgar calls for an enlightened citizenry that is pro-poor. Mr. Benjamin de Leon, the president of the Forum for FP and Development shared the definition of ‘catholic’ in the dictionary: universal, relating to all men, all-inclusive, comprehensive in interest and tastes, broad-minded, and liberal. But the way the Roman Catholic Church is acting on the issue of RH, de Leon said that they are being exclusive and contradictory to what the word catholic embodies. He thinks that the CBCP is unfair for pressuring P-Noy and the legislators since they are leaders of all Filipinos regardless of their faith and religious affiliations. He cites that other faiths such as Iglesia ni Kristo and other Christian groups are pro-RH and family planning. Ms. Elizabeth Angsioco, the national president of Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, emphasized the separation of church and state. She said that as the debate rages on, many poor women who are in need of Family Planning and Health services are at risk.

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