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Filipino bishops cut off talks with government over reproductive health bill

.- Bishops in the Philippines are halting dialogue with the local government as the country's president voices increasing support for a highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill.

“This bill fundamentally disrespects God's teachings on human dignity and the respect and protection of human life,” said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula, interim president of Human Life International.

The proposed legislation would  attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools. Human Life International reported that the bill has provisions to jail critics who provide undefined “inaccurate” opposition to it.

A spokesman for the country's President Aquino, who backs the bill, said on May 9 that the president still hopes there will be “common ground” reached in talks with the Filipino Catholic Church.

However, the Philippines Catholic bishops' conference responded on May 10 saying that negotiations are futile, as the president is likely to push the measure ahead despite the bishops' concerns.

The House of Representatives' Committee on Population and Family Relations already approved a consolidated version of several measures on the country's Reproductive Health Bill on Jan. 30, according to the Philippine Star.

The bishops called the legislation “a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial” in a pastoral letter in January.

Human Life International head Msgr. Barreiro observed May 12 that while “President Aquino has stated that he wants to find common ground with Catholics on the anti-life Reproductive Health Bill, Catholics cannot compromise on God's teachings on the protection of human life.”

“We are defending non-negotiable values.” 

Msgr. Barreiro added that the organization applauds the Filipino bishops “for their courageous statement of truth. Any independent observer can see the huge gap between the truth and the untenable position of the bill's supporters.”

"That is the 'common ground' upon which President Aquino should meet opponents of this bill,” he added. “Without that, there can be no agreement. Let us hope that the Filipino government does not try to ram this bill through congress in a dictatorial fashion.”

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