I do not know why my friends and fellow professors at the Ateneo did not solicit my signature in this statement, but I sure agree with them on this note. It shows that dissent — and the light of reason — exists even when the official statement and the statsus quo say just to follow the Catholic teaching, blindly if need be. — Danton Remoto
BY Carmela Fonbuena, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak | 10/16/2008 4:45 PM
Fourteen faculty members of Catholic school Ateneo De Manila University are out to prove that not all Catholics agree with the Catholic Church’s opposition to the controversial reproductive health bill pending in the House of Representatives.
In a 16-page position paper full of quotes from Catholic Church teachings and scientific studies on health, population, and poverty, the faculty members expressed their strong support for House Bill 5043 because “we believe that the provisions of the bill adhere to core principles of the Catholic social teaching.”
The bill is controversial for promoting contraceptives and imposing sex education in schools starting in Grade 5. Catholic bishops have tagged the bill as “pro-abortion” and “anti-life.”
Although they are aware of the Church’s position, the faculty members said in the paper “our reason, informed by our faith, has led us to believe and say otherwise.” They argued that the bill is actually pro-life, pro-women, and pro-poor.
They argued that the HB 5043—by providing universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health services—will improve the country’ maternal and child health situation, prevent abortion, help poor families, and make the youth more responsible sexually.
“We ask our bishops and fellow Catholics not to block the passage of House Bill 5043…. To campaign against the bill is to deny our people, especially our women, many other benefits, such as maternal and child health and nutrition; promotion of breastfeeding; adolescent and youth health; reproductive health education; prevention and management of gynecological conditions; and provision of information and services addressing the reproductive health needs of marginalized sectors, among others,” the paper said.
Theology department, too
The faculty members came from various departments of Ateneo. One of them belongs to the Department of Theology. They stressed that they are only speaking for themselves and not for the University.
Their position paper came out after the results of Social Weather Station’s poll on public support for the reproductive health bill were released. It showed that 68 percent—7 in every 10 Filipinos—want a law on contraceptives.
The following are the signatories:
1. Marita Castro Guevara (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies)
2. Raymond Aguas (Department of Theology)
3. Liane Pena Alampay (Department of Psychology)
4. Fernando Aldaba (Department of Economics)
5. Remmon Barbaza (Department of Philosophy)
6. Manuel Dy Jr. (Department of Philosophy)
7. Elizabeth Uy Eviota (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
8. Roberto Guevara (Department of Theology)
9. Anne Marie Karaos (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
10. Michael Liberatore (Department of Theology)
11. Liza Lim (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
12. Cristina Jayme Montiel (Deparment of Psychology)
13. Mary Racelis (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
14. Agustin Martin Rodriguez (Department of Philosophy)
‘Pro-poor, pro-Life, pro-Women’
In saying that the “Scripture teaches us that God has a special concern for the poor and vulnerable,” the faculty members stress the provisions of the reproductive health bill that are “explicitly pro-poor.”
Section 11 of the proposed bill mandates congressional districts to acquire, operate, and maintain “a van to be known as the Mobile Health Care Services” to deliver reproductive health care services to the poor and needy.
The poor’s lack of access to health services is blamed for the poor maternal and child health situation in the Philippines.
· 10 women die every 24 hours from almost entirely preventable cases of related to pregnancy and childbirth.
· 6 out of 10 women deliver at home, where they rarely have access to a skilled birth attendant.
· 24 out of 1,000 babies under one year old die every year.
The paper also stressed the importance of planning the family. “There is no question that poverty in the Philippines is exacerbated by our rapid population growth,” the paper said.
It cited studies showing that women in the lowest quintile, who usually bear an average of six children, have at least two children more than their ideal number (3.5). They noted that the increase in family size also means a decrease in per capita income, a decrease in per capita savings, and a decrease in per capita expenditure on education and health.
This will be prevented if Filipinos are familiar with the family planning methods, they said. “The inability of women in the poorest quintile to achieve the number of children they want stems from their high unmet need for family planning,” the paper said.
It will also prevent abortion, they said.
Based on 2000 statistics, there were about half million recorded abortion cases—or 27 abortions per 1,000 women. According to the position paper, this is because “abortion has become a family planning method, in the absence of information on and access to any reliable means to prevent an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.”
Earlier, 27 professors from the University of the Philippines economics department issued a statement, backed by research, supporting the reproductive health bill.