The President met today with members of the House of Representatives to discuss the Responsible Parenthood Bill. The President began his remarks by telling the gathered representatives that, if he were still a member of the House, he would vote for the Responsible Parenthood Bill. He shared with the gathered congressmen and women the discernment that led to his taking this position.
The President recalled a visit to the Baseco compound in Manila, during which he met a 16 year-old mother who had just given birth to her second child and whose husband had no stable source of income. The President reflected on the sobering realities the young lady’s plight represented: instead of being able to have a normal adolescence, here was a young lady already struggling with the truth of having two children. He asked the representatives to consider, too, the circumstances surrounding the child born to such a young parent: what kind of a future would such a child have, in terms of basic needs like nutrition, and other future prospects down the line?
The President said that confronted with the girl’s story, he had to ask himself, whose failure was it for the young girl and her children to be so disadvantaged? The President said that such a situation posed a challenge of conscience and leadership to all those who have put themselves forward to serve their constituents. Can you, the President asked, in good conscience, consent to the perpetuation of this state of affairs?
The President discussed with the congressmen his belief that genuine leaders cannot postpone a decision on what is a divisive issue. It should be resolved at the soonest possible time. Leadership comes not just with perks, but also with responsibilities, and among those responsibilities is that of making a choice. He asked how anyone could oppose offering parents the opportunity to make informed choices about the number of children they have, and about having the fullest opportunity to understand the requirements for raising healthy offspring.
The President also pointed out that the House must act on the pending bill sooner rather than later. The issue has been divisive for too long; the time has come to put the matter to rest. He suggested that a week should be adequate time to consider amendments that genuinely improve the bill—in contrast to “killer amendments”—and that at the end of that period, it is incumbent on representatives to vote.
There are material issues that we need to address—and we must address them in conscience, the President said. He further told the lawmakers that we are taught that our conscience is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong—and that at the end of the day, we will all be asked: What did you do to the least of your brethren?
The President closed his remarks by stating that to do nothing is to exacerbate the problem. Our responsibility is to craft the best possible measure, to offer the best possible opportunities for our children to grow and prosper.