December 4, 2012 (HLIWorldWatch.org) – As debate intensified over amendments to the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines Tuesday, the principle sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Pia Cayetano, said that the government has a role in ensuring “pleasurable sex” for women, and led an effort to strike down an amendment deleting such language from the bill.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile introduced an amendment that would remove the word “pleasurable” in the bill from the phrase “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences” which is included in the bill’s definition of sexual health.
“Many women are denied a pleasurable sexual experience,” explained Sen. Cayetano. “They give in to their husbands because they have to, to make them happy even if they become pregnant.”
“To delete ‘pleasurable’ is just to say we can deny them of a pleasurable experience,” she said, adding that the phrase was a “very important” part of the bill.
The amendment to remove the word failed by a vote of 11-6.
Lawmakers in the Philippines are under intense pressure from President Benigno Aquino to pass the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011, or RH Bill, before the end of the year. The Catholic Church and pro-life advocates are encouraging Filipinos to pressure lawmakers to vote against the bill.
Among other objectionable provisions, the RH Bill would force medical professionals and businesses to provide a full range of “reproductive health services,” regardless of conscientious objection. The bill promises to fine and jail opponents who spread as-yet-undefined “malicious” falsehoods about the bill, and would pay for contraceptive services with taxpayer funds. It is feared that the RH Bill will move the Philippines one step closer to legalizing abortion, which is currently illegal under any circumstance.
The House is also debating amendments to their version of the RH Bill, and yesterday lawmakers rejected an attempt by one representative to ensure the protection of religious freedom in carrying out the bill’s mandates.
Representative Pablo Garcia of Cebu said, “The State recognizes the right of couples … to be consistent with their religious convictions, and to [ensure] that right, we must include the statement [protecting religious freedom].”
Rep. Garcia’s amendment would have added the language: “the state shall refrain from taking any action or mission that will tempt or tend to make any woman or couple … violate the tenets or teachings of their religion” to a section of the bill.
The State recognizes and guarantees the exercise of the basic human right to reproductive health by all persons particularly of parents, couples and women, consistent with their religious convictions, cultural beliefs and the demands of responsible parenthood, and the state shall refrain from taking any action or mission that will tempt or tend to make any woman or couple to violate the tenets or teachings of their religion.
A leader in the pro-life resistance to the RH Bill, Rep. Garcia said the government should look at religion “with benevolent neutrality and accommodation, such that the State may even accommodate a teaching or tenet of a religion. But in this case, in the case of [the RH Bill], the State is not neutral, much less benevolent to the Catholic Church because the State is promoting and distributing free contraceptives and other devices which are in violation of a tenet of the Catholic Church.”
The amendment to add the new language failed with a vote of 75-100.
Catholic Church leaders in the Philippines are calling on the public to use “the weapons of prayer and fasting against the measure.” Bishop Gabriel Reyes, president of the Commission for the Family and for Life of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), asked the faithful to “pray and fast today and in the following days so that our lawmakers do not approve the bill.”
“We ask God to protect life, family, marriage and the youth in our country,” the bishop said. Bishop Reyes also called on lawmakers to have an open vote on the bill, should it come to a vote, so that “people know how they voted their representatives.”
In addition to the legal threat posed by the RH Bill, the Philippines was also facing a severe weather threat on Tuesday from Typhoon Bopha.
At least 40 people were killed and 40,000 evacuated after the typhoon made landfall on Mindanao in the southern part of the country bringing heavy rain and wind gusts of 130mph that caused power outages and flooding.
Human Life International (HLI) country director for the Philippines Dr. Rene Bullecer criticized President Aquino on Tuesday for trying to force a vote on the bill with the typhoon threat looming.
“I really pity the pro-RH congressmen, senators and even the president. It just clearly shows that these men are under pressure from the [international lobbyist] forces behind the RH Bill,” Dr. Bullecer said.
Dr. Bullecer told local media that the storm is a sign of divine intervention against the RH Bill.
“Every time they want to take a vote on the bill, something unusual happens to our country,” he said.
Last August, Manila was flooded by a strong rain as the congress convened to deliberate on the bill.
Follow Adam on Twitter: @adamcassandra. Reprinted with permission from HLIWorldWatch.org