JR Lopez Gonzales 10:30 AM 5
We’ve already traced the brief history of reproductive health in the Philippines on my preceding article. Invariably, the lack of a clear and solid population program has impacted on the government’s ability to provide basic services.
|3,000 Filipino babies are added to the population everyday.|
In the face of the unstoppable opposition of the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippine population is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is even estimated that 3,000 Filipino babies are born every day, 100,000 every month, which balloons to 1,000,000 babies a year.
The Philippines is reported the 9th most populated country in Asia. Our country is the 12th most populous nation in the world with a country size as big (300,000 km² or 115,831 sq miles) as Arizona where the latter’s population has only 6 million people.
It simply means that more people means more mouths to feed, more food to produce, and more government money allocated for the welfare of these people At this rate, the population was forecast to double in two decades. Worse, the economy has been growing at a rate that could not sustain the increase in the number of people. It consequently compromises the quality of life of the Filipinos.
On Rep. Lagman’s article , he noted that according to the National Statistics Office, the large families are prone to poverty with 57.3 percent of families with seven children mired in poverty while only 23.8 percent of families with two children are poor. Recent studies also show that large family size is a significant factor in keeping families poor across generations. The National Statistical Coordinating Board projected that a replacement fertility of 2.1 children per couple could be reached only by 2040. Moreover, despite a reduced population growth rate, the effects of population momentum would continue for another 60 years by which time our total population would be 240 million. The Filipino state simply cannot accommodate such an exponential growth in its children, which, according to a 2007 Philippine Daily Inquirer article is about 15% faster than our ASEAN peers.
What this population control debate boils down to is a simple supply and demand dynamic. Supply and demand is the basic law in economics that argues on the rickety balance of supply and demand determines prices. Now, what does this mean? As long as there is plenty of supply, say in a huge population like ours, in a country with fluctuating economic growth and therefore unreliable job creation and job market, Filipino wages will always be kept at a bare minimum. This is because the slow growth in Philippine economy simply cannot keep up with the number of people who need jobs. In a climate of heightened competition, there are always plenty of people willing to work for less.
Since 2004, there has been a sharp decline in the use of government-provided contraceptive services in the Philippines so that more and more Filipino women have no choice but to forgo contraception primarily because of the cost, in a country whose population is exploding.
According to a study conducted by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute and the Manila-based Likhaan, a nonprofit reproductive rights NGO, supplies of public-sector contraception services dropped from 67 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2008. As pointed out on my previous article on RH Bill, aid coming from the US was finally brought to a halt in 2003 that left the state to fund its own family planning programs. "Access to contraceptives for poor women now depends mostly on the ability and willingness of local government offices to support these services. Local governments can purchase contraceptives and include family planning services at their discretion as part of their public health functions if and when their limited budgets allow for such spending," the institute said. The problem is, it added, "to date, few have done so."
According to the SWS Survey  conducted in 2008, 71% of the Filipinos are in favor of the bill’s passage. The 2009 study  also revealed that 88 percent of the 600 respondents agree that Manila should have a policy on reproductive health, while 95 percent said that city health centers should further improve their services.
But well, the bill in the country drew flak among faith-based organizations (most especially The Roman Catholic Church) for its key proposal that state funds would be used to subsidize artificial family planning methods where groups say it merely liberates promiscuity. They say that sex is a thing that teens will later on learn thus, does not necessitate some kind of “formal education”. Teaching it would lead to promiscuity, they say. The Church claims that it is the parents' responsibility to educate their children on these delicate issues. Obviously, this claim is based on the assumption that every parent in the country is already educated, well-informed and updated, as well as emotionally and mentally prepared to discuss such information to their children. But the opposite holds true. In my article about sex education entitled, “Let’s Talk About Sex (Education) in the Philippines”, we can infer some significant pieces of information:
UNESCO’s International Technical Guidance on Sex is a review of a total of 87 sex education programs worldwide: 47 in the United States, 29 in developing countries (like the Philippines). The following are the signifant findings: 1. 37% in all of the sex ed programs had delayed initiation of sex; 27% in developing countries. How about hastened initiation? 0%. 2. In the frequency of sex: 31% in all 87 programs had lower frequency; there was a 3% percent increase BUT there was a 44% lower frequency of sex in developing countries. 3. 44% in all sex education programs had decreased number of partners; 38% in developing countries, and ZERO percent had increased number of partners.
A great number of our people, especially those less fortunate people, who did not have the opportunity to learn, much less discuss anything about sexual health. The Church, according to this Associated Press report, insists that sex education "should be the primary responsibility of parents. If it is taught to students, it should not start in grade school but in college". But according to studies, most teenage pregnancies start before turning 14 years old (just one or two years after the start of puberty). Also, risky sexual behavior often starts when they are already in college, as this study show. The bill’s age-appropriate sexuality education for Grade 5 to 4th year high school students seem timely and truly makes sense.
The Filipino people need empowerment through education so they may know what is going and what to do not just with regard to their bodies, but in the state which is supposed to give them the maximum welfare. Next to the issue of “promiscuity” (that according to the critics would arise if the bill will be passed), is the issue of the artificial contraceptives. They say it’s abortifacient. Although if you will only read the full text thoroughly, you will see that it gives greater weight to the physical well-being of women and children.
It clearly states that abortion will remain a crime, but caring for women who underwent post abortion will be given in a humane and compassionate way. This bill shows that the country is clearly headed in a progressive way in enforcing the rights of women isn’t it? According to Rep. Lagman, RH bill will not lead to the legalization of abortion. It is not true that all countries where contraceptive use is promoted eventually legalize abortion. Many Catholic countries criminalize abortion even as they vigorously promote contraceptive use like Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Paraguay and Ireland. The Muslim and Buddhist countries of Indonesia and Laos respectively, also promote contraceptive use yet proscribe abortion. According to studies, correct and regular use of contraceptives reduces abortion rates by as much as 85 percent and negates the need to legalize abortion.
I think it is a “double dealing” of the Church to promote so-called natural forms of family planning but not allow other forms. If natural forms of preventing conception are acceptable, I don’t see why there’s something wrong with so-called artificial forms. The intention is virtually the same: prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg. So if the artificial form is reprehensible, the same treatment should be given to artificial forms. If one is acceptable, so should be the other. The Vatican’s Humanae Vitae is not an infallible doctrine as Lagman pointed out.
In 1963, Pope John XXIII created the Papal Commission on Birth Control to study questions on population and family planning. The Commission included ranking prelates and theologians. Voting 69 to 10, it strongly recommended that the Church change its teaching on contraception as it concluded that “the regulation of conception appears necessary for many couples who wish to achieve a responsible, open and reasonable parenthood in today’s circumstances.
However, it was the minority report that Pope Paul VI eventually supported and which became the basis of Humanae Vitae. Even 40 years ago when the encyclical was issued, theologians did not generally think that it was infallible. Monsignor Fernando Lambruschini, spokesperson of the Vatican at the time of its release, said “attentive reading of the encyclical Humanae Vitae does not suggest the theological note of infallibility… It is not infallible.” Five days after the issuance of the encyclical, a statement against it was signed by 87 Catholic theologians. It asserted that “Catholics may dissent from … noninfallible Church doctrine” and that “Catholic spouses could responsibly decide in some circumstances to use artificial contraception.”
However, church theologians whose opinion were disregarded by Pope Paul VI in his Humanae Vitae praised artificial contraception as a step for people to plan their families better. The church’s stand is based on the order of nature that humans should not intervene in the natural process of reproduction. But I for one would argue based on order of reason that people also have the capacity to improve the quality of their life through their God-given intelligence.
I remember in a BBC documentary there was an official Catholic Church campaign in South Africa saying that condoms cannot prevent HIV spread because of holes. An investigation by the WHO found that the holes in the condoms are at the molecular level and no virus known to man can get through. Think about it: How many lives should have been saved by the Catholic Church if only they were candor about this? So what’s the end result? The Catholic Church in South Africa currently allows condoms to be used between married couples. I sneer at some provisions of the Bible that are even warped to serve some of the Church’s doctrines. I believe that the verse in the Bible that says “Go forth and multiply” isn’t applicable in the Philippine setting. (And yet some would still state that as a “moral” basis).
I’ve never been a fan of Pres. Noynoy Aquino but I definitely am pleased when he personally endorsed the use of contraceptives and the promotion of reproductive health programs especially among poor folks. Women must be given their choice because it’s their body and it is about time that we control the population. And to me, population control is not abortion because you just prevent the contraception – and that’s it,” the president said in an interview. But because of Aquino’s positive opinion on the reproductive health, he is now faced with the Church’s threat of excommunication. The greatest punishment the RC can give for its member. With excommunication, one can still attend mass BUT can’t join the communion or the liturgy. And furthermore, because of one’s deprivation of the Sacraments, one cannot definitely go to heaven anymore. (Well, I was just misquoted, Bishop Ochimar said). If ever that would happen, Pres. Noynoy will have a bigger star status being at par with Fidel Castro, King Henry II and VIII, French King Theodoseus, Emperor Henry IV, King John of England, Joan of Arc, Napoleon the First, Juan Peron, and Martin Luther. Wow. I’ve got a simple question: what made the act of supporting the RH bill so grave that by doing so would spend his eternity in the lakes of fire?
To quote from Davao Vice Mayor Rudy Duterte, “the state is not empowered by any law to dictate upon any couple how they should plan for their family. But the government has an obligation to educate its citizens”. Sen. Biazon quotes that, the State must respond to the needs of the people. If the teachings of the Church are against the use of modern artificial contraception, the Church should touch base with their flock. They should go to the pulpit, and teach. I hope they’re fair when they do this.”
The RH bill does not interfere with family life. In fact, it enhances family life. The family is more than a natural nucleus; it is a social institution whose protection and development are impressed with public interest. It is not untouchable by legislation.
Looking at our present population of 9-million-short-to-become-a-hundred, it seemed that “leave-it-to-the-parents” technique wasn’t so effective. I don’t see any “other” solution that the Church can offer. So let us allow the state do its duty. To each his own. Let us give the people choices.
The simple logic is this: if you can’t sustain your children, then you better be prepared to stop having children. It is as clear as ice. We need to manage our population; health and economic conditions before the impending population implosion kill us all. Unless we do something, our women will continue to be at risk for harassment as servants, entertainers and playthings elsewhere, families will continue to be torn apart, and the wages for many hard-working and persevering Filipinos will never be enough for what they deserve. Morality is an affair of several economic, political, and social dimensions. Denouncing this bill with the simplistic argument about a new "world war" is not logically tenable. There is already an ongoing war, and that is the complex and intertwined problems faced by our country brought about by overpopulation. It is better to properly plan for the number of kids than to just "multiply and multiply" without assurance of good life to ones children.
Reproductive health is an act of self-preservation. It’s a requisite to maintain life. Those who oppose it will lead us to self-destruction…to doom…and to well, the most of the religious people call “hell”. In another light, it seemed that CBCP have not experienced the hardship of raising a family since they never had one. They have not experienced how to live in slum areas. They have not experienced looking for a job with an empty stomach. They have not felt how difficult it is for parents to see their children go hungry. Their playing field is different than most of us. And come these right-wingers manage to make rules where they are not playing the game anyway?
Kaya dumarating ang napakaraming kalamidad! Tinatangkilik ng mga nasa gobyerno ang mga erehe laban sa ministro ng Dios! – Padre Damaso, in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.