The pro-life coalition mobilised under campaign slogans such as “love of country begins with respect for life.”8 What does it Angiogenesis Compound Library
mean to be ‘pro-life’; and whose life? In the Philippines, as in other parts of the world, the Catholic fundamentalist notion of ‘pro-life’;
is rooted in doctrine that stipulates that sex, which is only valid within the sacrament of marriage, is inseparable from its procreative function. Therefore, any attempts to limit births ‘artificially’; go against nature and the “order of reality established by God.”9 More specifically in the case of contraceptives, Catholic fundamentalists in the Philippines and globally have challenged particular types of methods which they believe induce abortions.10 According to Article 2, Section 12 of the Philippine constitution, the state “shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” This specific provision in the highest law of the country was cited in the RH Bill debates by the pro-life coalition to imply not only that public funding of contraceptives went against state principles, but also that it contradicted national identity. Founded on an absolutist stance which circumscribed national identity and interest in Catholic terms, the coalition\'s position on contraception precluded a nuanced discussion of what it means to be a Filipino. Furthermore, it lacked recognition of diverse sexual and reproductive health needs of different Filipino women. Indeed, ‘pro-life’; in this context merely privileges the life of the unborn over the life of mothers since many poor women are effect
ively denied autonomy over their own bodies (see also Tan, 2004).
National surveys have also consistently shown Ideogram
the use of contraceptive pills is the most preferred method for family planning regardless of class and religious background.11 Because contraceptives are not legally banned in the Philippines, those who can afford to buy their own contraceptives instead of being dependent on the government can and have been making sexual and reproductive choices privately, beyond the purview of religious fundamentalist influences over policy-making. They are thus more successful at negotiating or resisting the strict confines of their religious identity. Poor women, including those who are not even Catholic, are in effect denied these same options with severe repercussions to the quality of their lives. The insistent opposition against the RH Bill unravels the material prerequisites which may allow certain Catholics to publicly denounce contraceptives without any significant restrictions to their sexual and reproductive well-being. However, what has been a key obstacle in advancing sexual and reproductive freedom in the Philippines is political representation. Pro-life coalition members who are in direct positions of authority define the identity and interests of the collective using their conservative ideology. For instance, despite majority support for the RH Bill from both Catholics and non-Catholics, and a consistent clamour for accessibility of all safe and effective methods for contraception, the RH bill languished within the Philippine legislative system until a supportive president was elected (Sisante, 2008). In addition, legislators who voted against the RH Bill\'s passage justified their position on the basis of their Catholic and pro-life identities.