COUPLES FOR CHRIST FOUNDATION FOR FAMILY AND LIFE (“CFC-FFL”) respectfully submits this
in opposition to House Bill No. 4244 (“An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development, and for other Purposes”) (the “RH Bill”).
A. Legal Objections
1. The RH Bill is inherently unconstitutional
The underlying premise of the RH Bill is that life begins at implantation. It is this fundamental assumption that breathes life to its cause—the cornerstone upon which it builds the legal framework supporting its mandate for the promotion and distribution of “artificial methods of family planning”, particularly all forms of contraceptives. Without this foundational anchor, the RH Bill collapses under its own weight, deprived of legal moorings.
CFC-FFL humbly submits that the premise of the RH Bill is wrong.
Life begins at conception, not implantation. Both the Philippine Medical Association and renowned embryologists concur that life begins at conception, when the male sperm fuses with the female egg cell. At that point, the number of chromosomes necessary to create a human being (i.e., 46) becomes complete, resulting in the creation of a unique human being. However, for this human being to grow and develop to full term, he/she needs to be implanted on the mother’s uterus, which serves as his/her source of sustenance and habitation.
The framers of the Constitution had the same notion about the onset of life when they adopted Article II, Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution, which pertinently provides that “[t]he State . . . shall equally protect the life of . . . the unborn from conception.” Thus, during their deliberations to clarify this provision, the authors adopted the medical definition of the term “conception” (i.e., fertilization of the ovum).
Since life begins at conception, then any post-conception act that prevents or stops the natural development of the fertilized ovum—an essential element of which is its implantation on the uterus–is an attack against that life. If the assault is done deliberately—and succeeds–it may well qualify as murder. In any case, the act falls squarely within the legal meaning of abortion.
Many contraceptives exist for this specific purpose. They prevent the fertilized ovum from implanting itself on the uterus, depriving the ovum of its natural habitation and life support. Except for the relative degree of helplessness, the effect is no different from where an assailant kills an infant by means of starvation and suffocation.
By indiscriminately promoting all types of contraceptive devices and services, the RH Bill violates Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution. In terms of effect, it will legalize the mass murder of innocent babies.
2. Specific Infirmed Provisions of the RH Bill
- a. Section 16 of the RH Bill
The referenced provision would force students starting from Grade Five up to fourth Year High School to undergo “mandatory age-appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education”. The RH Bill defines “Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education” as a life-long learning process of providing and acquiring complete, accurate and relevant information and education onreproductive health and sexuality through life skills education and other approaches (Sec. 4). Parenthetically, the term “Reproductive Health Care” includes “sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations” (Ibid.)
CFC-FFL objects for several reasons.
First, since matters of sex raise issues of morality, the provision contravenes the State’s principle that “the natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth . . . for the development of moral character shall receive the support of the State.” (Constitution, art. II, sec. 12). The RH Bill would snatch from parents their sacred right and duty to teach morality and sexuality to their growing children within the privacy of their home and in accordance with their religious beliefs. Yet, the RH Bill would declare as a policy that “the State recognizes and guarantees the exercise of the universal basic human right to reproductive health . . . particularly of parents . . .consistent with their religious convictions (and) cultural beliefs . . .”—one of several examples of the RH Bill’s self-contradiction.
Second, because of its intrusive effect, the provision runs counter to the State’s commitment to “protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution” (Ibid.) It also conflicts with Article 149 of the Family Code, which provides that “the family, being the foundation of the nation, is a basic social institution which public policy cherishes and protects.” If allowed to pass, the RH Bill would invade the sanctity of family life by imposing behavioural patterns that will undermine family values. To this extent, it would violate the family members’ basic right to privacy.
Third, the prescribed sex education wrongly assumes that children as young as 10 years old have the discernment and emotional/psychological maturity to handle properly the delicate topic of sex and its ramifications. Under Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”, a child 15 years old or below at the time of the commission of the offense is exempt from criminal liability, because the law assumes that a child of such age has no discernment. Without the ability to discern, how could students between the ages of 10 and 15 be expected to process such a complicated topic as sex correctly and responsibly?
Fourth, Section 16 of the RH Bill—to the extent that it forces families and their children to comply with the requirement on sex education–contradicts the RH Bill’s own guiding principle in Section 3(a) guaranteeing freedom of choice. Compulsion is anathema to an individual’s right to make free and informed decision.
- Penal Provisions of the RH Bill
By way of general opposition, CFC-FFL respectfully submits that the penalties imposed in the RH Bill represent a discriminatory bias in favour of contraceptives and against natural family planning methods, in wanton disregard of the equal protection clause. Worse, the prohibitions ignore Constitutionally-protected personal and property rights of individuals.
One example is Section 28(a)(1), which penalizes any health care provider who shall “knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding the programs and services on reproductive health, including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods”. By forcing the health care provider to speak the line of contraception–and punishing him for expressing his own opinion and beliefs against it–the provision clearly impinges on the individual’s freedom of speech and religion. To the extent that it restrains his desire to speak his mind, the prohibition constitutes unlawful prior restraint.
Section 28 (a)(2) is objectionable to the extent that it allows the beneficiary of reproductive health services to proceed with the procedure despite protest from his/her spouse. Such evident bias for population control promotes division and disunity in the family, at the expense of the Constitutional dictum recognizing “the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation” and directing the State to “strengthen its solidarity and actively promote its total development.” (See art. XV, sec. 1 of the Constitution).
Section 28(a)(3) is defective because it would force the health care provider to extend health care services even to a minor.
For stifling dissent and legislating prior restraint, Section 28(e) violates free speech and religious freedom. The provision would penalize any person who “maliciously” engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of the law. The threat of imprisonment and/or fine—found in Section 29–would create a chilling effect among those who disagree with the law for any reason, effectively muzzling their opinion. It would also open the floodgates for crackdowns and the filing of harassment suits. By all legal yardsticks, the provision constitutes a direct affront to the Bill of Rights.
- Section 7 of the RH Bill
This provision would require PhilHealth to “pay for the full cost of family planning” if the beneficiary “wishes to space or prevent her next pregnancy”. Why is family planning given special attention? There are thousands of destitute citizens afflicted with tuberculosis, diabetes, dengue, cancer and other kinds of illness, who need the support of Government. Who will provide the cost of their medicine? Why are they left out? Why are beneficiaries of family planning singled out for a guaranteed financial support? CFC-FFL sees no valid classification for this warped sense of prioritization, and opposes it on the ground that it violates the equal protection clause enshrined in the Constitution.
- Section 10 of the RH Bill
Article II, Section 15 of the Constitution obligates the State to “protect and promote the right to health of the people . . .” The RH Bill would undermine this obligation by classifying “products and supplies for modern family planning methods” as “essential medicines”, in the process diverting scarce funds that would otherwise go to the purchase of truly essential medicines and equipment necessary for the treatment of cancer and other deadly ailments.
3. Provisions of the RH Bill are self-contradictory
The RH Bill is mired in fatal inconsistencies and contradictions. To cite some glaring examples:
- Section 3(a) of the RH Bill guarantees the right of every individual to make free and informed decisions, and to be free from any form of restraint or coercion. This is contradicted by the subsequent Penal Clauses in Section 29, which would imprison or fine any person for expressing an opinion contrary to the law or for refusing to perform reproductive health services. Another contradiction to Section 3 is the provision on sex education (Section 16 of the RH Bill), which would compel parents and their children to comply with mandatory sex education.
- The RH Bill purportedly aims to protect the rights of adolescents and children (see Section 3(b and c). However, they would expose these hapless individuals to the sensitivity and complications of sex through mandatory sex education, and would even allow them to decide for themselves whether or not to ask for and accept any form of reproductive health services, despite scientific findings that children fifteen years old and below are without discernment. CFC-FFL respectfully submits that the duty to protect these youth includes the obligation to protect them against themselves.
- Section 3(c) concedes that “human resource is a principal asset of the country”. Yet, practically all the provisions of the RH Bill seek to stunt the growth of this valuable resource through a well-orchestrated and funded promotion of contraceptives and other forms of artificial family planning. The RH Bill would also “encourage” couples to limit their children to just two (see Sec. 2).
- In Section 3(f), the RH Bill proclaims that “the State shall promote, without bias, all modern natural and artificial methods of family planning”. But considering that practically all of the important provisions relate to the promotion, implementation and funding of artificial family planning, e.g., Section 10 (“Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines”), Section 11 (“Procurement and Distribution of Family Planning Supplies”), Section 15 (“Mobile Health Care Services”), Section 16 (“Mandatory Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education”), Section 19 (“Capability Building of Barangay Health Workers”), Section 21 (“Employers’ Responsibilities”), Section 25 (“Implementing Mechanisms”), Section 26 (“Reporting Requirements”), Section 28 (“Prohibited Acts”), Section 29 (“Penalties”), and Section 30 (“Appropriations”), there is hardly any doubt that the RH Bill is tilted heavily towards contraceptives and other forms of reproductive health services.
- The RH Bill claims that it is not changing the law against abortion (Section 3(j)), but the fact that it would allow the use of contraceptives that prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum negates such gratuitous claim.
- Section 3(m) admits that the State has “limited resources”, and that the same cannot be “suffered to be spread thinly”. If so, why then would the RH Bill appropriate scarce resources for the propagation of contraceptives, instead of channelling these resources to the containment of killer diseases?
B. Other Objections
1. The Filipino race will become extinct
For a nation to continue its existence, it must maintain a Total Fertility Rate (“TFR”) of 2.1 per woman of reproductive age. This is the rate needed to replace inevitable human loss. In the 1960’s, the country’s “TFR” stood at a healthy 7 children per woman. By 2008, it had plummeted to a mere 3.1. Without an RH Law, the TFR will decline to just 2.1 by 2025, after which it will continue its downward spiral, resulting in the aging and eventual extinction of our race similar to what is happening in Japan, Singapore, Italy and France.
The RH Bill correctly proclaims that human resource is a principal asset of the country. The two most populous countries — China and India — are now the world’s second and fourth largest economies, respectively. They achieved this distinction principally because of their huge population, which gave them natural advantages in terms of having a broader pool of scientists, engineers and other skilled people, a wider base of productive workers, and an expansive consumer market. No less than the former U.S. President Bill Clinton recognized the benefit of a huge population during his recent visit to the Philippines. Indeed, if harnessed properly through the adoption of sound government policies that attack corruption and promote people’s training, the country’s population has the potential of extricating us from poverty and elevating the Philippines to the league of developed countries.
2. Children will become “sex experts”
Section 16 of the RH Bill obligates students, starting in grade 5 until 4th year high school—a total of 7 straight years—to undergo sex education that will teach them about the purpose and use of condoms, pills, IUD, and other contraceptives, ovulation periods, and other aspects of sexuality. Bombarding them with these birth-control methods increases the risk of these children believing that it is okay to have pre-marital sex, especially if the natural deterrent to engaging in sex (e.g., pregnancy) is perceived to have been removed.
3. Morality will deteriorate
Seven years of continued exposure to contraceptives–and the notion that the use of contraceptives removes the natural deterrent to pre-marital sex (i.e., pregnancy)—inevitably erodes such traditional values as “virginity before marriage”, marital fidelity, and chastity. The sexual act becomes a mere biological necessity, devoid of its spiritual dimension.
4. Parents will lose part of their parental authority
By compelling children to undergo sex education even against their parents’ wishes, Section 16 of the RH Bill would force parents to surrender (i) their Constitutional right to raise and develop the moral character of their children (see Art. II, Sec. 12 of the Constitution) and (ii) their statutory right to care and rear their minor children for the development of their moral, mental and physical characteristics and well-being (see Article 209, Family Code). Moreover, Section 28 (a)(2) of the RH Bill removes the requirement on parental consent in cases where a minor is abused by another member of the family, e.g., brother. Finally, Section 28 (a)(3) of the RH Bill forces a health care provider to extend health case services, e.g., dispensing contraceptive pills, to a minor even without parental consent.
5. Parents will surrender the right to raise their children according to their faith and the law
The Catholic Church prohibits the use of contraceptives. The RH Bill ignores and nullifies this prohibition by promoting the use of contraceptives (through mandatory sex education under Section 16) and by enabling a minor to demand reproductive health services even without parental consent under Section 28 (a)(3)(4).
6. Families will be divided
By empowering children to decide for themselves matters of reproductive health without involvement from, and even against the will of, their parents,
the RH Bill would seek to destroy the unity of the family by driving a wedge between the children and the parents. The law will promote the independence of children, ultimately resulting in their rebellion, disobedience and defiance.
7. The poor will lose the opportunity to have more jobs, public schools, public hospitals, and free medicine
A significant segment of the poor has no access to medical services and vocational education. They cannot afford to see a doctor, buy medicine, or go to college. The funds that would otherwise go to the purchase of contraceptives would be better used for generating more jobs, providing free medicine, and building more public schools and hospitals.
8. People will pay more taxes
The RH Bill requires enormous funding for the acquisition of contraceptives and the delivery of reproductive health services, running in billions of taxpayers’ money as provided in Section 30. The escalating financial requirement will inevitably translate to more taxes.
9. A new source of corruption will be created
Quoting Renaud Meyer, the United Nations Development Program country director, the Phil. Daily Inquirer reported that the Philippines lose P1.92 billion to corruption every year. In 2000, the cost of corruption was 10% of GNP. A more recent estimate puts it at close to 20% of the national budget.
10. Women will be exposed to a higher risk of contracting deadly diseases
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies oral contraceptive pills as Group 1 carcinogens. This means that the use of these pills increases the consumer’s risk of contracting breast cancer. Findings of the Women’s Health’s Initiative have confirmed this risk, and have added the conclusion that their use also exposes women to the risk of acquiring cerevascular disease, myocardial infarction, and pulmonary embolism.
11. No Compelling Need for the RH Bill
At this day and age, contraceptives and other kinds of artificial family planning are readily available in the market. Condoms and birth-control pills can be purchased over the counter or through third parties, invariably without need of medical prescription. There are even herbal concoctions sold in the corners of Manila, and practices of “mang-hihilot, that produce the same effect. Truth be told, there is no cogent need for the RH Bill.
Authors of the RH Bill claim that their goal is to give women the right to space their children and to choose the kind of family planning method. At present, such rights exist even without the RH Bill. There is no law that deprives them of the right to space or determine the number of their children, or that prohibits them from choosing artificial family planning as their preferred method.
There is also the proponents’ argument that the RH Bill will reduce pregnancy-related deaths. Such contention is flawed. First, the correct solution to this problem is not the promotion and distribution of contraceptives, but the legislation of programs that will provide free pre-natal care to poor pregnant women. Second, there is no clear proof that flooding the country with contraceptives will lower the incidents of pregnancy. On the contrary, because this strategy naturally encourages promiscuity and promotes sexual adventurism, the risk of pregnancy and abortion increases in proportion to the established failure rate of contraceptives.
If it becomes law, the RH Bill will do nothing more than force or condition the mind of people to use contraceptives and other forms of reproductive health services—this, at the expense of the fundamental rights of the people. With the liberties of the citizenry trampled, and the national coffers poorer–only the manufacturers and distributors of these artificial family planning devices and services—and others with their own hidden agenda—stand to benefit from this proposed legislation.
For the foregoing reasons, CFC-FFL humbly asks that the RH Bill be recalled, withdrawn, or rejected by the Honorable House of Representatives.