Proponents of population control in the Philippines, including the Obama administration, were in a celebratory mood on December 17, 2012 when the so-called “Reproductive Health” (RH) Bill was signed into law. But they may have started partying too soon. The Supreme Court of the Philippines has now suspended the law for 120 days while it considers whether or not it violates the Philippine Constitution.
The Catholic Church, joined by millions of believers across the archipelago, fought long and hard to prevent the law from passing the Philippine Congress in the first place, and has now filed a lawsuit to prevent it from taking effect.
The Philippine Constitution very clearly states that: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” (Article II, Section 12)
Likewise, in the Revised Penal Code (Section 2, Article 256), abortion is listed as a crime and anyone who performs an abortion, whether intentionally or unintentionally, will receive prison punishment to different degrees.
The lawsuit argues that the law, formally entitled “The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” violates the Philippine Constitution by mandating the provision of contraceptives to the population, most forms of which are abortifacient. Such drugs also violate the moral teachings of the Catholic Church to which the vast majority of Filipinos belong.
The newly issued status quo ante (SQA) of the bill, a motion which has placed the bill on hold, will halt any forward motion of the law until oral arguments are held in mid-June against the RH Bill. If not proven unconstitutional, however, the bill will be enforced as law.
Pro-lifers have also opened a second front. The general election is approaching in May. Pro-life advocates must now go to the people with their arguments, and defeat those “Catholics” whose votes helped to pass this legislation.
What the Filipinos have now on the ground is a war on two fronts: Legal and Political. They should focus more of their energy on the elections while, in the meantime, praying for the pro-life lawyers to win the battle in the Supreme Court.
There are currently two main political “teams” that are running candidates for a number of different offices in the Philippines. These teams divide the candidates according to their stance on the RH Bill. Team Patay is pro-RH Bill, while Team Buhay is against the RH Bill.
If Team Patay wins the elections, the Supreme Court Justices might very well take into account the public pulse and favor the RH Bill.
So, to prevent this bill from becoming law, the pro-life forces must use all moral and licit means at their disposal to make sure that Team Buhay wins. Of course, you can't win a game by offense alone, you need strong defense, to prevent the enemy from outscoring you. Moreover, you have to make sure that the officiating is fair, and there is no cheating.
The Philippines, to its credit, still has a relatively high birth rate. This is why it has been targeted by USAID since the 1970s for population control programs. This is also why those in power today in the Philippines will do everything they can to ensure that this law is not overturned, regardless of how strongly it is opposed and what the Constitution says.
You can see what the Philippines is facing over time by glancing back at earlier version of this bill. In the 2011 version, the population control motives of its sponsors can be seen more clearly, since the promotion of contraception was clearly intended to lower the Filipino birthrate. This 2011 bill did not pass. If and when the new law is enforced, however, it will probably be only a matter of time before more coercive population control measures follow.
Now, during this brief window of time while the law is suspended, is the best opportunity to turn away from this path. Catholics in the Philippines need to assert their identity and elect the right candidates. And the pro-life attorneys who are arguing the case before the nation’s supreme court need to be at their best. If they are, the Reproductive Health Bill may soon contract a fatal case of unconstitutionality and die a quick and much-deserved death.
Elizabeth Crnkovich writes for PRI, from where this article is adapted.