Magellan’s Cross marked the beginning of a long and colorful saga between Filipinos and the Roman Catholic Church. It was Catholic faith that prevented blood to be shed in EDSA. It was a testament to that same faith that many Filipinos helped one another during Ondoy and Pepeng. But now, the Church and our People are at odds over Reproductive Health.
This is our nation now: the third largest Catholic nation in the world. It is a nation where ten Filipino women die every day from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes. Of every thousand infants born, thirty-six needlessly die, and for every 580 women giving birth, one loses her life. In this country, thirty-eight percent of children die before they reach the age of five.*
This is also true: Our democracy is not a theocracy.
By turning a blind eye to the question of reproductive health, our nation seems to approve more than a quarter of women aged 15-24 to get pregnant and sanction nearly 20 per cent of Filipino women to have unplanned births. About 36 per cent of abortions reported in hospitals involve women between 15 and 24 years old.*
Are we inadvertently promoting a culture of death?
Noynoy Aquino puts this issue in proper perspective:
“Palagay ko, meron po tayong problema sa populasyon. Palagay ko meron akong responsibilidad bilang may konsensyang tao na tumulong na yung mga batang dinadala sa mundo ay may pagkakataon na gumanda ang kanilang buhay”
We will need the Reproductive Health Bill for our people to grasp human physiology and sexuality; to develop healthy bodies, and healthy relationships. It does not legalize abortion, nor deny abstinence method. It does not restrict the Church in promoting morality amongst its flock. It does not deny Muslims and Buddhists and other faith or even those who do not believe, any right. It aims to develop relationships and interpersonal skills, about exercising responsibility regarding sexual relationships, a healthy discussion about prematurely engaging in sexual intercourse, the use of contraception, the risk of venereal diseases and other sexual health issues. Reproductive Health as codified by the state does not replace the teachings of the Church. They are complementary. Responsible parenthood is key, and being responsible begins when parents decide to bring children into this world to live, and not in day-to-day survival.
This is how we change the world:
We must inaugurate an era of constructive engagement, an end to the cycle of selfishness and the tired fundamentalist dogma that saps strength and promotes ostracizing, and demonizing and a patronizing view of women and children. We must take responsibility for our women, to care for them and the children they bring into this world. It is an era where our compassion must be codified and our commitment, true. “When love is responsible, it is truly free” must not be empty words we utter in our beautiful cathedrals, or whispered to advice the bitterly remorseful inside a confessional.
We must choose hope over fear, determination over cynicism, confidence over pragmatism. The question we ask today is not about our petty grievances over tools and methods, over condoms and abstinence. It is about codifying our Filipino men to have the conviction to stand up for our women and their children. It is about allowing every Filipino to discern what’s right . It is about making a world where there are fewer unplanned pregnancies and unwanted children.
As we look to the future with humble gratitude for what has come before, we must stand together and our differences set aside that we may have a government that resolves to be better than what we have now. This above all is what our people so desire and deserve. I believe that Noynoy Aquino’s stance on Reproductive Health is in keeping with building that government with honesty, integrity, transparency, and good governance at its core ethos.
Cocoy is a thirty year old who believes we should be conservative in what we say, liberal in what we accept. He contributes for the blog, Filipino Voices.
*figures from SB-43