Declaration of Support of Ateneo Faculty Members for RH Bill
Dear Honorable Members of the House of Representatives and of the Philippine Senate:
Kindly find attached to this letter the Declaration of Support for the Immediate Passage of House Bill 5043 on “Reproductive Health and Population Development,” signed by 69 individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University.
After studying the provisions of House Bill 5043 in light of the realities of Filipino women, poor families, and our youth, we, 69 individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, speaking for ourselves and not for the University, have come to conclude that the Philippines urgently needs a national policy on reproductive health and population development, as provided by House Bill 5043.
We hope our expression of support can help enrich and broaden the discussions and debates on the issue of reproductive health and population development, by presenting an alternative view supportive of House Bill 5043 coming from Catholic academics and educators.
We hope forthcoming initiatives from the House of Representatives and the Senate can engender dialogue among various groups espousing conflicting positions on this most crucial issue. May our collective efforts in dialogue lead to a more enlightened citizenry and bring about what is the greatest good for our beloved people—especially women, the poor, and our youth.
Sixty-nine individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University
(whose names are listed at the end of the Declaration of Support)
Declaration of support for the Reproductive Health Bill’s immediate passage into law from individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University
We, individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, speaking for ourselves and not for the University, strongly support House Bill 5043 on “Reproductive Health and Population Development,” and call for its immediate passage in Congress. After studying the bill’s provisions in light of the realities of Filipino women, poor families, and our youth, we have reached the conclusion that the Philippines urgently needs a national policy on reproductive health and population development, as provided by the RH Bill.
A consistent, integrated, and comprehensive population framework guarantees budgetary support from the national government for reproductive health initiatives, and ensures their sustainability across local government units regardless of changes in national and local leadership. While curbing our rapid population growth rate of 2.04 percent will not, by itself, solve poverty in our country, addressing the population problem is crucial to overall economic growth and poverty reduction, along with asset redistribution, employment and livelihood opportunities, combating corruption, improving governance, and strengthening institutions.
We further believe that it is possible for Catholics like ourselves to support HB 5043 in good conscience, even as we recognize, with some anguish, that our view contradicts the position held by some of our fellow Catholics, including our bishops. Those who oppose the RH Bill have denounced it as “pro-abortion,” “anti-life,” “anti-women,” “anti-poor,” and “immoral.” However, our reason, informed by our faith, has led us to believe and say otherwise.
The RH Bill is pro-life and pro-women. HB 5043 categorically rejects abortion, which it deems a “crime,” in consonance with the 1987 Constitution. What it, in fact, wants to do is prevent abortions by offering couples an array of “medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality” family planning methods, from which they can choose the one that will work best for them. In sodoing, the RH Bill seeks to avert unwanted and mistimed pregnancies, which cause mostly poor and married women despairing over yet another pregnancy to seek an induced abortion. We are alarmed that an estimated 473,400 Filipino women went for an abortion in 2000, and that some 79,000 of them wound up in hospitals for abortion complications. We consider it our guilt and our shame that so many of our women should be driven to such dire straits as to make abortion a family planning method, for want of information on and access to an effective means to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
This declaration of support is based on the 15 October 2008 position paper entitled “Catholics Can Support the RH Bill in Good Conscience” by individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, namely Marita Castro Guevara (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies), Raymond B. Aguas (Department of Theology), Liane Peña Alampay (Department of Psychology), Fernando T. Aldaba (Department of Economics), Remmon E. Barbaza (Department of Philosophy), Manuel B. Dy, Jr. (Department of Philosophy), Elizabeth Uy Eviota (Department of Sociology-Anthropology), Roberto O. Guevara (Department of Theology), Anne Marie A. Karaos(Department of Sociology-Anthropology), Michael J. Liberatore (Department of Theology), Liza L. Lim (Department of Sociology-Anthropology), Cristina Jayme Montiel (Department of Psychology), Mary Racelis (Department of Sociology-Anthropology), and Agustin Martin G. Rodriguez (Department of Philosophy).
We believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life, whether that life is the mother’s or the unborn child’s. It is for this reason that we support the RH Bill’s intent to expand couples’ — but especially women’s — access to safe, legal, and reliable family planning methods, whether modern natural or modern artificial. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that women’s access to effective contraception would avert 30 percent of maternal deaths, 90 percent of abortion-related deaths and disabilities, and 20 percent of child deaths. Thus, the RH Bill is not only pro-life (in that it aims to prevent the termination of an unborn child’s life), but also pro-women, because it enables them to plan the number and spacing of their children so as to avoid frequent and closely-spaced pregnancies that imperil their health and lives. Moreover, given that our maternal mortality rate is a staggeringly high 162 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, the RH Bill aims to improve maternal and infant health by enjoining cities and municipalities to provide an adequate number of skilled birth attendants and hospitals rendering comprehensive emergency obstetric care.
In sum, because reproductive health is central to women’s overall health, fundamental aspects of women’s wellbeing are compromised when reproductive health is ignored. The conditions under which choices are made are as important as the actual content of women’s choices: the right to choose is meaningful only if women have real power to choose.
The RH Bill is pro-poor. Based on the Pulse Asia 2007 survey on family planning, an overwhelming majority (92%) of Filipinos believe that it is important to plan their family, and most (89%) say that the government should allocate funding for modern artificial methods of family planning, including the pill, intrauterine devices (IUDs), condoms, ligation, and vasectomy. And yet only 5 out of 10 married women (50.6%) use any family planning method, whether modern natural or modern artificial. This suggests a significant unmet need for reproductive health services.
By treating contraceptives as “essential medicines,” HB 5043 makes contraceptives (including those requiring hospital services like tubal ligation, vasectomy, and IUD insertion) part of the National Drug Formulary, and therefore more accessible and cheaper for Filipinos. This is a decidedly pro-poor measure, considering that the majority (58.1%) of those who use modern artificial family planning methods rely on the government for their supply of contraceptives. Our Catholic faith calls on us to embrace the preferential option for the poor and marginalized. We therefore support the RH Bill, which we believe will be especially beneficial for our poorest 20 percent who cannot afford family planning services, and therefore have the highest unmet need for family planning (26.7%), and 2.5 children more than they desire. Furthermore, we uphold the principle of integral human development, which is why we want couples to be able to have only the number of children that they want and can adequately feed, clothe, care for, and send to school, so that they can attain their full potential as human beings, and contribute to the development of Philippine society.
The RH Bill is pro-youth. As teachers of our young people, we are deeply concerned that, over time, more of them are getting initiated into sex at increasingly younger ages. Based on the 1994 and 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality surveys of the UP Population Institute, not only did the proportion of youth aged 15-24 who are engaged in premarital sex increase (from 17.8% in 1994, to 23.4% in 2002), but the average age of their first sexual encounter declined (from 18 in 1994, to 17.5 in 2002). Even more worrisome is how their premarital sex act is often unprotected, with three in four of them (75.1%) admitting to not using any kind of contraceptive during their most recent premarital sex act, primarily because of lack of knowledge on contraception. Our young people’s premarital and unprotected sex therefore places them at high risk for early pregnancies, and contracting HIV-AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases.
We favor the RH Bill’s provision of mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health education, believing as we do that much of our youth’s risky sexual behavior is linked to their lack of information and values formation on their reproductive and sexual health. We take exception to the opinion that teaching them about sex will make them prurient and promiscuous. Rather, we hold the view that by providing our young people the information and values they would need to take care of their reproductive health, and by creating opportunities for them to articulate and clarify their questions and feelings about sex, we are empowering them to make responsible decisions regarding their sexuality and sexual behavior, whether now or in the future. After all, Catholic social theology teaches us that the principle of human dignity requires us to uphold human rights, which include the right to education and appropriate information (Gaudium et Spes, 1965) and the right to develop one’s intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth (Centesimus Annus, 1991).
The RH Bill is pro-informed choice. In seeking to promote both modern natural and modern artificial methods of family planning (with “no bias for either”), HB 5043 recognizes that couples, especially women, have the right to choose the family planning method that they consider to be the safest and most effective for them, provided that these are legally permissible. Although natural family planning (NFP) which the Catholic Church promotes offers many benefits, it is important to realize that pursuing an NFP-only population policy will be a disservice, if not a grave injustice, to women and couples for whom NFP simply cannot work. We are thinking of women who find it impossible to predict their infertile periods; or couples who see each other on an irregular basis; or women who are trapped in abusive relationships with men who demand sex anytime they want it. Why is it morally wrong for such women and couples — and even others not encompassed by the above situations — to use a modern artificial family planning method that has been pronounced safe and non-abortifacient by health authorities, if their discernment of their particular situation has led them to conclude that such a method will enable them to fulfill the demands of marital love and responsible parenthood?
Catholic social teachings recognize the primacy of the well-formed conscience over wooden compliance to directives from political and religious authorities. Gaudium et Spes (1965) tells us: “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged” (no. 16).
We respect the consciences of our bishops when they promote natural family planning as the only moral means of contraception, in adherence to the teachings of Humanae Vitae (1968). In turn, we ask our bishops to respect the one in three (35.6%) married Filipino women who, in their “most secret core and sancturary” or conscience, have decided that their and their family’s interests would best be served by using a modern artificial means of contraception. Is it not possible that these women and their spouses were obeying their well-informed and well-formed consciences when they opted to use an artificial contraceptive?
We therefore ask our bishops and fellow Catholics not to block the passage of HB 5043, which promotes women’s and couples’ access to the full range of safe, legal, and effective modern natural and modern artificial family planning methods, from which they can choose the one most suitable to their needs and personal and religious convictions. 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. In pursuit of the common good, or the “sum total of social conditions which allow people… to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (Gaudium et Spes 1965, no. 26), we call on the Catholic Church to let the RH Bill pass in Congress, and to consider forging a principled collaboration with the government in the promotion of natural family planning, which Humanae Vitae deems morally acceptable, and in the formation of consciences with emphasis on the value of responsible sex and parenthood.
To our fellow Catholics who, in good conscience, have come to conclude, as we have, that we need a reproductive health law: we ask you to declare your support for HB 5043.
Finally, we call on our legislators in the House of Representatives and in the Senate to pass the RH Bill. Doing so upholds the constitutional right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions; honors our commitments to international covenants; and promotes the reproductive health and reproductive rights of Filipinos, especially of those who are most marginalized on this issue — our women, poor families, and youth.
We sign this declaration as individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University, and speak for ourselves and not for the rest of our colleagues or the University.
Signed: 69 individual faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University (28 October 2008)
Ricardo G. Abad (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Joy G. Aceron (Department of Political Science)
Raymond B. Aguas (Department of Theology)
Liane Peña Alampay (Department of Psychology)
Fernando T. Aldaba (Department of Economics)
Raul Socrates C. Banzuela (Program for Development Studies)
Raymundo S. Baquiran, M.D. (Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health)
Remmon E. Barbaza (Department of Philosophy)
Germelino M. Bautista (Department of Economics)
Edsel L. Beja, Jr. (Department of Economics)
Rofel G. Brion (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies)
Ma. Cecilia C. Bulos (Department of Psychology)
Liberty L. Chee (Department of Modern Languages)
Sharon Ann C. Co (Department of Psychology)
Antonio Esteban G. Conejos (Department of English)
Manuel D. Cuenca, Jr., M.D. (Department of Psychology)
Gary C. Devilles (Kagawaran ng Filipino)
Aleta C. Domdom (Department of Economics)
Atty. Alexander C. Dy (Ateneo Law School)
Manuel B. Dy, Jr. (Department of Philosophy)
Elizabeth Uy Eviota (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Ana Marie O. Fernandez (Department of English)
Joseph H. Francia (Department of Economics)
Jamil Paolo S. Francisco (Department of Economics)
Geoffrey A. Guevara (Department of Philosophy)
Marita Castro Guevara (Department of Interdisciplinary Studies)
Roberto O. Guevara (Department of Theology)
Ma. Regina M. Hechanova (Department of Psychology)
Anne Marie A. Karaos (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Albert M. Lagliva (Department of Philosophy)
Michael J. Liberatore (Department of Theology)
Liza L. Lim (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Ma. Emma Concepcion D. Liwag (Department of Psychology)
Ada Javellana Loredo (Department of English)
Jozon A. Lorenzana (Department of Communication)
J. Ma. Arcadio Malbarosa (Department of Philosophy)
Michael Ner E. Mariano (Department of Philosophy)
Pamela Joy M. Mariano (Department of Philosophy)
Ma. Isabel Pefianco Martin (Department of English)
Marcia Czarina Corazon M. Medina (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Ma. Isabel E. Melgar (Department of Psychology)
Luisito G. Montalbo (Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health)
Cristina Jayme Montiel (Department of Psychology)
Aaron Rom O. Moralina (Department of History)
Jocelyn M. Mayoralga-Nolasco (Department of Psychology)
Mira Alexis P. Ofreneo (Department of Psychology)
Glenda C. Oris (Kagawaran ng Filipino)
Josephine P. Perez (Department of Psychology)
Raul Pertierra (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Caroliza T. Peteros (Program for Development Studies)
Alicia T. Pingol (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Emma E. Porio (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Mary Racelis (Department of Sociology-Anthropology)
Ma. Margarita A. Ramos (Department of Psychology)
Mariel Vincent A. Rapisura (Program for Development Studies)
Danton R. Remoto (Department of English)
Agustin Martin G. Rodriguez (Department of Philosophy)
Alma Maria O. Salvador (Department of Political Science)
Atty. Maria Cleofe Gettie C. Sandoval (Leaders for Health Program, AGSB – Health Unit)
Joselito T. Sescon (Department of Economics)
Anton Luis C. Sevilla (Department of Philosophy)
Alma Valerie C. Soriano (Department of English)
Sherilyn T. Siy (Department of Psychology)
Mary C. Thomas (Department of English)
Jose Ma. Edito K. Tirol (Department of History)
Philip Arnold P. Tuaño (Department of Economics)
Eileen F. Tupaz (Department of Philosophy)
John Carlo P. Uy (Department of Philosophy)
Ma. Eufemia C. Yap, M.D. (Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health)
Statement of Fr. Nebres on Reproductive Health Bill 5043
Yesterday, the Manila Standard had a headline story entitled “Ateneo profs defy bishops, back family planning bill.” The article is based on an October 15, 2008 position paper issued by individual faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila, “Catholics Can Support the RH Bill in Good Conscience.” A shorter version of this position paper is attached.
In reply to a request for clarification from His Excellency Most Rev. Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D., President of the CBCP, I wrote him yesterday, October 22, as follows:
First, that “the faculty members clearly state that they are not speaking for the Ateneo de Manila and that this is their personal position.”
Second, that I was asked to respond to this concern a few weeks ago by Archbishop Paciano Aniceto and Bishop Gabriel Reyes and I wrote them on October 2, 2008 regarding our position on the Reproductive Health Bill 5043:
As in all matters that are connected with faith and morals, the Ateneo de Manila, as a Jesuit and Catholic university, stands with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus.
I am familiar with the considered opinion of our moral theologians that, although there are points wherein the aforesaid bill and the Catholic moral tradition are in agreement, there are certain positions and provisions in the bill which are incompatible with principles and specific positions of moral teaching which the Catholic Church has held and continues to hold.
I trust that this will help clarify our position. At the same time, together with the CBCP and the Philippine Province, we favor and encourage honest, sincere and mutually-respectful dialogue on the important issues taken up in the bill.
In my letter to Archbishop Lagdameo yesterday, I also said that several Jesuits would be meeting with the Ateneo faculty members yesterday in a dialogue on this important matter. The dialogue yesterday was forthright and mutually respectful and we pointed out that, while we respect their deep concern for the poor and appreciate our mutual dialogue with them, it is necessary for the Ateneo de Manila as a Jesuit and Catholic university, to state clearly our position on RH Bill 5043. The position of the Ateneo de Manila is as follows:
1) We appreciate the efforts of these members of the Ateneo faculty to grapple with serious social issues and to draw from Catholic moral teaching in their study of the bill.
2) We acknowledge their right to express their views as individual Catholics and appreciate their clear statement that their views are their own and not that of the University.
3) However, the Ateneo de Manila University does not agree with their position of supporting the present bill. As I said in my letter of October 2 to Archbishop Aniceto and Bishop Reyes, it is “the considered opinion of our moral theologians that, although there are points wherein the aforesaid bill and the Catholic moral tradition are in agreement, there are certain positions and provisions in the bill which are incompatible with principles and specific positions of moral teaching which the Catholic Church has held and continues to hold.”
We thus have serious objections to the present bill in the light of our Catholic faith.
4) Ateneo de Manila thus stands with our Church leaders in raising questions about and objections to RH Bill 5043.
5) It is also the responsibility of the Ateneo de Manila as a Jesuit and Catholic university to ensure that, in our classes and other fora, we teach Catholic faith and morals in their integrity.
6) At the same time, as I also wrote on October 2, we support continuing efforts on the critical study and discussion of the bill among Church groups including the University and in civil society.
BIENVENIDO F. NEBRES, S.J.