Sunday, March 4, 2012


Some Filipino-American pro-life advocates warn that President Benigno Aquino III may be walking the same path that recently forced President Barack Obama to retreat from requiring church-run businesses to provide abortion and contraceptive services to their workers.

President Aquino supports passage of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill pending in the Philippine Congress. President Obama’s own woes, leading to a clash with the influential Catholic bishops in the United States, stems from implementation of health insurance reforms that has been derisively called “Obamacare”.

“Both renders the mandatory and free distribution of contraceptives and abortifacient pills and aggressively allows the use of taxpayers’ money for funding,” Margi Paglinawan, a leader of the Couples for Christ Foundation for Family & Life (CFCFFL) in the Metro DC region.

President Obama backtracked from a Department of Health & Human Services mandate that would compel church-run schools, hospitals and charities to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization for their workers, if they wished to get them.

He instead lifted the mandate for faith-based entities but still ordered insurance companies covering these organizations to provide the service free of charge. “The administration’s proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions,” wrote Cardinal Donald Wuerl in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post.

“Obama,” Paglinawan echoed, “did not really cave in to the demands of the Catholic Church or faith-based groups objecting to the mandatory inclusion of religious institutions in the Obamacare coverage for free contraception.”

“The problem is that its not really free because the employer religious institution still pays for his share of the insurance premium,” Paglinawan insisted.

“The accommodation that the president announce still presents grave moral concerns and continues to violate our constitutionally protected religious freedom,” Cardinal Wuerl declared.

Paglinawan said that both Presidents Aquino and Obama “are engaged in verbal engineering…by executive fiat Obama calls it preventive medical care, Aquino pursues it through congressional legislation as ‘essential medicines and supplies’.”

“Proponents say the RH bill does not include abortion yet it provides for post-abortion intervention. Most abortions in the Philippines are passed on as DNCs (dilation and curettage procedure for miscarriages),” she explained.

“The Obama fiat can be easily overturned if a Republican president assumes the White House in November,” Paglinawan added, “the proposed reproductive health legislation in the Philippines is driving us into the same slippery slope that the US brought itself into.”

“The American experience has gone almost 360 degrees. Meanwhile, the Philippines is being lured into a disaster,” she argued.

“We are grateful to President Obama for uniting the Catholics to not vote for him in November,” she added.

But a Reuters report showed that the bishops’ hardline stand has shined a light on the already existing schism between what the church preaches and what it practices. While the US Conference of Catholic Bishops vowed to fight the federal mandate, other Catholic groups including the Catholic Health Association have distanced itself and accepted President Obama’s compromise.

“The bishops have lost their monopoly on speaking,” Reuters quoted Georgetown University theologian Fr. Thomas Reese.

It was discovered in the heat of the religious uproar that several large Catholic institutions like Georgetown, Fordham and DePaul universities already covered contraception in employee insurance plans.

“We welcome increased debates on life issues here in the US as well as in the Philippines,” Paglinawan averred.

“It is constructive because we work closely with the Catholic Church on these issues. In Washington DC, we are directly collaborating with Christa Lopiccolo, executive director for life issues in the Archdiocese of Washington,” she explained.

“What we’ve observed is the more abortion debate gets heated, the more the cause of abortion weakens,” she alleged.

In the Philippines, the RH bill has made little progress despite several determined attempts to pass it in Congress. Catholic bishops have periodically fired broadsides against President Aquino for continuing to support the measure.

And here in the US, the abortion debate does not show any signs of subsiding even after President Obama’s compromise offer. Groups like the CFCFFL intend to turn it into a campaign issue for the Fall elections.

In 2008, President Obama won 54 percent of the Catholic vote.

Catholics comprise about a quarter of the US population and have significant presence in prospective 2012 battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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