This paper argues that the claim that contraceptives are immoral is a specific moral norm--hence, it cannot be imposed on others--and that Filipinos who do not share the Catholic Church’s belief on contraceptives are legitimately entitled from the government to, at least, affordable access of these materials and/or services. As a consequence, the government, on the ground of the principle of religious freedom or primacy of conscience, is duty bound, to pass the RH Bill or its equivalent. There may be other legitimate grounds on which a Catholic legislator may oppose the RH Bill, but that he considers the use of contraceptives immoral is not a valid one. The arguments rest on Thomas Aquinas’ phenomenology of conscience, which is shown to be on par with the Catholic Church’s teachings.
The paper, thus, proceeds in the following manner: first, it explains Aquinas’ notion of conscience as the natural law and its two levels. The two levels of conscience – the natural and deliberative – correspond to the general norms of the natural law and the specific norms respectively. Next, it clarifies correlative ideas like “obeying an erroneous conscience”, “religious freedom” and “impositions on conscience”. It is shown that the general moral norms may be imposed on conscience but not the specific norms except in some cases of consensus where such norms are translated into positive laws. The general norms and those derived specific norms, in as much as they conform to the general norms, made into positive laws, constitute the foundations of jurisprudence and the regulation of the exercise of freedom of citizens and the safeguarding of their rights. The paper then concludes by deriving implications to arrive at the positions mentioned above.