Manila (AsiaNews) – President Beniño Aquino announced that he no longer backs the Reproductive Health bill, which has been at the centre of a fight with Catholics. The decision follows a series of talks he held with the country’s bishops over the past few months. The old draft bill was supposed to be discussed by Congress but has been put off until further notice.
On 19 January, the president said he wanted to include in the bill changes agreed with representatives of the Catholic Church. Fr Mariani, a PIME missionary in Zamboanga (Mindanao), told AsiaNews that the president wants to replace the old bill, deemed too pro-abortion, with a new proposal that would focus on “responsible parenthood” rather than on birth control. Under a new proposal, artificial methods of contraception would not be explicitly mentioned; however, they would be made available to poor families who request them.
Fr Mariani noted that Aquino’s decision came after he held talks with Catholic prelates who also accepted to compromise. On Sunday, Manila Archbishop, Card Gaudencio Rosales, said that morality cannot be legislated, and that every person has the right to decide what is good for them.
For Fr Mariani, these words show that Catholics are committed to greater pastoral involvement among the people to bear witness to Christian values whilst not reducing their pro-life commitment in legislative matters.
The debate over the reproductive health bill has been raging for the past four years. The original draft banned abortion but included family planning to encourage couples to have only two children. At the same time, it would have de facto penalised medical staff and officials who are against the bill and favoured voluntary sterilisation.
The Catholic Church and Catholic associations are instead in favour of natural family programmes (NFP) that are based on encouraging a culture of responsibility and love inspired by Christian values.