RH: A Primer

There are two RH bills, one sponsored by Rep. Edcel Lagman, the other by Sen. Miriam Santiago.

In essence both bills seek:
1. Voluntary family planning for adults and mandatory sex education for children.
2. Contraceptives for those requesting them, to be funded by Government.

The arguments for RH are:
1. Controlling population alleviates poverty.
2. People have the right to intelligently plan their families and have a healthy sex life without the material responsibility of child rearing.
3. People should have access to Government subsidized contraceptives.
4. The money is well spent since it alleviates the state from the future consequences – crime, healthcare costs, etc. -of unaffordable children.

The arguments against are:
1. Controlling population does not alleviate poverty.
2.  Sex education and contraceptives encourage promiscuity.
3. Mandatory sex education violates freedom of choice (not to be so educated), constitutes “religious persecution” and is therefore unconstitutional.
4. Taxes are better spent elsewhere like in creating jobs.
5. Contraceptives are immoral as they prevent the birth of human beings.  6.Contraceptives are carcinogenic.

The RH debate can be classified into the statistics, the economics,the medical, the moral, and the social consequences of the bill.

The statistics- Both pro and anti-RH proponents present numbers to prove their case. There are truths, there are lies and there are statistics. A battle over numbers is therefore not a helpful way to settle the argument.

The economics-The financial costs of the RH program are insignificant in relation to the overall national budget and the future economic and social burden of unaffordable offspring. Money should not be a criterion for or against the program.

Creating jobs and controlling population are not mutually exclusive.

The medical- Anti-RHers claim contraceptives produce cancer. This argues for education. People must know condoms are not meant to be swallowed.

The morality- Once God and the sanctity of life are invoked as they are in the RH debate, there is no room for consensus. For one, parties cannot agree on definitions like the genesis of life.

By banning contraception, religious leaders implicitly claim life starts when sperm exits the male organ. By this standard, any form of manual and mental stimulation and accompanying paraphernalia that causes “unproductive” sperm release is sinful (if not unconstitutional). This includes, presumably, girlie magazines, slinky garments, R-rated films, dirty talk, and wet dreams.

Anti-RHers argue contraceptives encourage promiscuous behavior. Suggestive behavior, sexy movies, and alcohol arguably contribute more to premarital sex than contraception. Should these be banned as well? Some would like us to revert to a fundamentalist, Taliban-like state which, frankly, has its merits but is otherwise unhelpful in resolving the controversy.

Morality is a hard basis to, non-violently, settle the argument.

The social issue- The essence of the RH debate is freedom of informed choice, specifically, one, the choice of individuals to plan their lives without sacrificing the joys of healthy sex; two, their right to be educated on an issue that can significantly affect their future; and, three, the role of the state in making these choices possible.

Anti-RHers believe mandatory sex education deprives the young and their parents from choosing whether or not to be so educated. They feel contraceptives are available in the marketplace, why make them so accessible by fiat?

Pro-RHers say couples in remote areas are not aware of the contraceptive options and their availability. The state has an obligation to educate and make their choices real.

The differences lay largely on the term “mandatory” and the accompanying sanctions. As a compromise, while sex education would still be the default, the RH bill should allow parents to opt out of the program. Everybody should be entitled to embrace ignorance while not imposing it on others.

Premature sex comes not from availability of contraceptives but from our cultural environment. Sex is ubiquitous in music, media, film, literature and advertising. A child’s only protection against this pervasiveness is, primarily, education and, as the last line of defense, contraception.

Discussion on the RH bill should concentrate on the intended beneficiaries -the uneducated and the children; on freedom of choice and the role of education and the state in its determination.

Rather than speculate whether additional children burden a family, let each couple decide this for themselves in an informed manner.

To disparage dissenters with name calling such as being resorted to by Church leaders is not useful. It is a desperate move that reflects the paucity of one’s arguments.

Let us reconcile our differences in a civilized fashion.

If that does not work, just ram the bill through.

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About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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2 Responses to RH: A Primer

  1. nicole fandiño says:

    to the point and excellently edited.
    fantastic essay tito leo.
    may i share this article with friends here in alabanghistan?

  2. steksnikliu says:

    for the record,
    i vote YES!
    to any RH Bill that will ensure that NO MORE of the likes of an Edcel Lagman and a Miriam Santiago will ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER be born into our race – EVER.
    secondly, Premature sex should be a concern secondary only to premature ejaculation.
    i say the latter would be by far a better contraceptive tool than any of the detailed suggestions in the bill and should be instead encouraged as possibly inserted (no pun intended) into the education curriculum.

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