Filipino Congress sets aside pro-abortion bill, leaves the matter for the next government
by Santosh Digal
Opposition by 20 congressmen derails the proposal. House speaker says the controversial measure cannot be approved in the dying days of the current session of Congress. The Church continues its battle in favour of life, will promote its own natural family planning programme in the next Congress.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The debate over the Reproductive Health Bill is over after four years. Had it been adopted, the draft legislation would have encouraged the use of contraceptives among the population and limited families to two children. Congress ended its session without a consensus. Some 20 congressmen had announced their intention to interpolate on the bill, which would make it impossible to vote on. Any further discussion is postponed until after May elections when a new Congress will sit.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles Tuesday sounded the death knell for the controversial measure when he admitted it could not be discussed in the last two session days of the House, because it was too contentious and had little chance of being voted on.

Many long hours have been devoted to the bill; however, it never made any headway because of opposition from the Catholic Church and pro-life groups.

Bill author Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman remains hopeful that the bill will be adopted by the next congress. “This is not the end of the road for the RH bill. We still have the Fifteenth Congress,” Lagman said.

The Reproductive Health Bill has been at the centre of the congressional debate in the past four years; however, it was first introduced during the Eighth Congress (1987-1992) when Cory Aquino was president.

Despite support from the United Nations, the legislative proposal never got the 120 votes needed for approval because of opposition from Catholic lawmen and President Gloria Arroyo, who has always been against family planning and abortion.

Although the law would not allow therapeutic abortion, it does entail family planning and would prevent families from having more than two children, with fines and prison for lawbreakers.  

It would also use schools and public places to promote the use of contraceptives, which are banned at present. Similarly, it would encourage voluntary sterilisation.

The Catholic Church and pro-life Catholic groups are instead in favour of a natural family planning (NFP) that would include promoting a culture of responsibility and love based on Christian values.

“The Church will continue to educate people about the sanctity and the value of human life,” said Angelito Salazar, director of the social services ministry of the St Anthony’s Shrine of Manila Archdiocese. “We will continue to educate people to be pro-life and promote Church-backed natural family planning (NFP) using Church doctrines and papal letters as well as our own sense of  pastoral and moral responsibility.”