Philippines RH Act: Rx for Controversy

Diatribe by Philippines’ President turns back the clock

Sean Murphy*

Abstract

Turning back the clock

In June, 2019, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte blamed the Catholic Church for obstructing government plans to reduce the country’s birth rate and  population.  “They think that spewing out human beings by the millions is a gift from God,” he claimed, adding that health care workers should resign if they are unwilling to follow government policy on population control for reasons of conscience.

Duterte’s authoritarian diatribe clashes with a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and turns the clock back to times of harsh and extreme rhetoric when the current law (commonly called the RH Act) was being developed.  The RH Act was the product of over fourteen years of public controversy and political wrangling. It was of concern when it was enacted because it threatened some conscientious objectors with imprisonment and fines. 

In January, 2013, the Project reviewed the Act in detail.  Project criticisms about the law’s suppression of freedom of conscience were validated in April, 2014, when the Supreme Court of the Philippines struck down sections of the law as unconstitutional.

Given the long history of attempts at legislative coercion in the Philippines and President Duterte’s obvious hostility to freedom of conscience and religion in health care, the Project’s 2013 review of the RH Act is here updated and republished.

Assuming that the Philippines government’s concern about population growth in the country is justified, it does not follow that it is best addressed by the kind of state bullying exemplified by President Duterte’s ill-tempered and ill-considered eruption.  Aside from the government’s enormous practical advantage in its control of health care facilities, it has at its disposal all of the legitimate means available to democratic states to accomplish its policy goals.  Not the least of these is persuasive rational argument, an approach fully consistent with the best traditions of liberal democracy, and far less dangerous than state suppression of fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Turning back the clock

A history of coercive legislative measures

Background

The “RH Act” of 2012: General comments

The “RH Act” of 2012: Specific provisions

Freedom of conscience and religion

The Supreme Court weighs in

The way forward

Appendix “A”:  Philippines population control and management policies

Appendix “B”: The “RH Act” (2012)  in brief

Project Comments

Firing Doctor, Christian Hospital Sets Off National Challenge To Aid-In-Dying Laws

Kaiser Health News

JoNel  Aleccia

DENVER — A Christian-run health system in Colorado has fired a veteran doctor who went to court to fight for the right of her patient to use the state’s medical aid-in-dying law, citing religious doctrine that describes “assisted suicide” as “intrinsically evil.”

Centura Health Corp. this week abruptly terminated Dr. Barbara Morris, 65, a geriatrician with 40 years of experience, who had planned to help her patient, Cornelius “Neil” Mahoney, 64, end his life at his home. Mahoney, who has terminal cancer, is eligible to use the state’s law, overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters in 2016.

The growing number of state aid-in-dying provisions are increasingly coming into conflict with the precepts of faith-based hospitals, which oppose the practice on religious grounds. . . [Full text]

Bishop calls on Scotland’s first minister to affirm conscience rights of party members

Crux

Charles Collins

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – A Catholic bishop in Scotland is urging the country’s political leadership to affirm freedom of conscience, “and hold in high regard those in public life who remain true to their conscience, even at the expense of personal popularity or political advantage.”

Bishop Hugh Gilbert, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, made his comments in a letter to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. . . [Full text]

New head of bioethics center says new technology raises moral questions

Crux

Charles Collins

When church leaders in the United States face new bioethical questions – such as those surrounding abortion, euthanasia, or gender identity – they often turn to the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center. . .

. . . It was announced this month that Dr. Joseph Meaney, the director of international outreach and expansion for Human Life International, will be taking over as the president of the NCBC.

Speaking to Crux, he said bioethics is “an almost exponentially growing field.” . . .

. . . He said the greatest challenges in the coming years will be “from gender ideology issues such as sex-change surgeries and drugs and also end of life issues, particularly assisted suicide and euthanasia.” . . .

. . .He told Crux there is “a very broad and concerted attack on conscience rights in many Western countries,” including over abortion and assisted suicide. Meaney said this doesn’t just affect doctors, but also nurses, midwives, and pharmacists.

What follows are excerpts of his conversation with Crux. [Full text]

Canada’s bishops allow Catholic hospitals to host consultations for euthanasia

LifeSite News

Lianne Laurence

OTTAWA, April 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Canada’s bishops were consulted on and agreed to secret guidelines by Catholic health sponsors that allow third-party euthanasia assessments of medically frail patients in Catholic health care facilities, LifeSiteNews has learned.

And while the Catholic health sponsors who drafted the guidelines in collaboration with ethicists and bishops concluded such assessments were not formal cooperation with evil, they failed to consider there are instances when material cooperation is gravely wrong, as is the case here, says Catholic moral theologian, Dr. E. Christian Brugger. . . [Full text]

Pope Francis: Freedom of conscience in danger in ‘Christian countries’

Catholic News Service

Courtney Grogan

Rome, Italy, Mar 31, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis decried the regression of freedom of conscience in “Christian countries” during an in-flight press conference Sunday, telling reporters on his return trip from Morocco, “let’s not accuse Muslims”.

When asked by a French reporter about a criminal law in Morocco that prohibits enticing a Muslim to convert to another religion, Francis responded, “Let’s not accuse Muslims. Let’s accuse also ourselves.”

“Today, we Christians have the danger that some governments will take away our freedom of conscience, which is the first step toward freedom of worship,” Pope Francis said March 31.

“Think of the Christian doctors and hospital institutions that do not have the right of conscientious objection, for example, for euthanasia. How? The Church has moved on and you Christian countries go backwards?” he told the French reporter. . . [Full text]

Bishops condemn bills to expand abortion, repeal conscience protection

Catholic News Service

Jacob Comello

The bishops from Illinois’ six dioceses March 28 made a decisive stand against state legislators’ efforts to remove all abortion restrictions in the state, as well as the right of physicians to object to the practice.

At a news conference livestreamed from the Illinois Capitol in Springfield, Catholic Conference of Illinois Director Bob Gilligan told reporters on no uncertain terms that “we are here today to oppose these bills.”

. . . The Senate and House bills Gilligan is referring to are S.B. 1942 and H.B. 2495. Either, if passed, would greatly alter current Illinois law. . . . [Full text]

Bolivian Catholic Bishops comment on freedom of conscience and religion

Assert right to conscientious objection

Sean Murphy*

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Bolivia have published a statement commenting favourably on changes to Bolivia’s law on freedom of conscience and religion. However, they criticize the failure to recognize a right to conscientious objection, referring to a physician in Sucre who is being disciplined for refusing to provide an abortion.

“[W]e have expressed on several occasions the need to recognize in Bolivia the right to conscientious objection, in this and other matters, because we consider first order safeguarding individual and thought freedom and because no one should be forced to act against their conscience.”

The right to conscientious objection

Catholic hospital group sued for refusing transgender hysterectomy

Cathoic News Agency

San Francisco, Calif., Mar 25, 2019 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A group of five Catholic hospitals in California is being sued by a woman who identifies as a transgender man after one of its locations, St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka, refused to perform a hysterectomy.

Oliver Knight is suing St. Joseph Health of Northern California, alleging that she was refused the surgery because of her “gender orientation.”

The suit was filed in the Humboldt County Superior Court on Thursday, March 21. In the lawsuit, Knight says that workers at the hospital canceled the surgery because she identifies as transgender. . . [Full text]

State hospitals must provide abortion if Catholic clinics will not – report

Patient’s life must take precedence over ethos in emergencies, says report

The Irish Times

Paul Cullen

State-owned hospitals should provide abortions in situations where neighbouring Catholic institutions are unwilling to do so, a new report suggests. . . the report says it is clear there will be situations where abortions have to be carried out in acute hospitals, rather than maternity units. There are seven Catholic voluntary hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Limerick . . . [Full text]