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Couple calls to stop controversial health bill

Warns more groups will march to protest against the draft

Gulf News

Manila: A Catholic couple warned that more groups would follow them a day after they asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation on January 17 of a controversial health bill that allows government to distribute artificial and natural contraceptives for poor people and give sex education to students with ages 9 to 19 in government-run schools.

“Several Church-based groups will elevate their complaints to the Supreme Court to oppose the implementation of Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 or Republic Act 10354,” said James and Lovely Imbong, adding their complaint was filed in behalf of minor children and the Magnificat Child Development Centre. Magnificat a pre-school based in San Fernando, Pampanga, central Luzon.

Contrary to law’s claims, the bill violates the Constitution because it does not protect children and women, including poor people in general, the Imbong couple said.

A States’ assurance given to a wife that she would not bear a child if she is on pills and other contraceptive methods is like urging her to be more available to satisfy her husband’s demands, the Imbong couple complained, adding, “The life of the mother is equally important as the life of the unborn and rightly so (and this should be upheld and not damaged by the country’s law).”

Noting the law’s target, the poor people, the Imbongs said, “(It is) a subtle way of telling the poor that the State will subsidize their right to have access to modern methods of family planning simply because they are poor.”

“(This complaint) will present the Act’s illegality as it mocks Philippine culture — which is noble and lofty in its values and holdings on life, motherhood and family life — now the fragile lifeblood of a treasured culture that stands solitary, but proud in contrast to other nations,” the Imbongs explained, adding their complaint is targeted at the “State itself”.

Respondents to the complaint also included Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

The couple’s mother Jo Imbong is the lawyer of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Meanwhile, in a pastoral letter, CBCP Vice President, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, warned that the reproductive health law will “lead to greater crimes and more violence against women… and “destroy family life”.

Denying the bill’s alleged aim: to give a better life to poor people through family planning programme, Villegas argued, “The poor can rise from their misery through more accessible education, better hospitals and lesser government corruption. Money for contraceptives can be better used for education and authentic health care.”

Implying the bill’s alleged inherent immorality, Villegas added, “The youth are being made to believe that sex before marriage is acceptable provided you know how to avoid pregnancy. Is this moral? Those who corrupt the minds of children will invoke divine wrath on themselves.”