When the recent floods are being touted as God’s displeasure with the RH Bill, it is perhaps time to bring sanity back to the debate.
To recap, the bill(s) seeks (1) voluntary family planning for adults (2) mandatory sex education for children and (3) contraceptives for those requesting them, to be funded by Government.
The arguments for RH are:
1. Over-population exacerbates poverty.
2. People should have the choice to informed family planning and a healthy sex life without the responsibility of child rearing.
3. People have the right to Government subsidized contraceptives.
4. The money is well spent since it alleviates the state from the future consequences – crime, health and education costs, etc. -of an unsustainable population.
The arguments against are:
1. A growing population enhances economic development.
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 “kill” human beings.
Both sides present their polls to prove their case. Depending on whom you ask- rich residents of Alabang with existential ideas or those in Tondo dealing with the realities of life- you will get differing answers; so numbers are not a good way to settle the argument.
The financial cost of the RH program is insignificant in relation to the national budget and the future economic and social burden of over-population. Money should not be a criterion for or against the bill.
Creating jobs and controlling population are not mutually exclusive so economics is also not a useful arbiter.
Morality is a difficult basis to debate reproductive health. Once God and the sanctity of life are invoked, there is no room for consensus. For one, parties cannot agree on definitions, like what is the genesis of life.
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 evil (if not unconstitutional). Were sperms ever meant to be taken this seriously?
Anti-RHers argue contraceptives encourage promiscuity. Suggestive behavior, slinky garments, sexy movies, and alcohol do as well. Should these also be banned? The other side believes premature sex comes from our culture and physiology. Sex is ubiquitous, it is in our audio-visual environment, in our advertising, and, God forbid, in our hormones. The strongest protection against this pervasiveness is education and, as the last line of defense, contraception.
Reproductive health is not about statistics, economics nor morality. Its essence 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 the poor and uninformed are not aware of the contraceptive options and their availability. The state has an obligation to educate and make their choices real.
The difference lies largely in the term “mandatory” and the accompanying sanctions. As a compromise, while sex education would still be the default, the RH bill could allow parents to opt out of the program. Everybody should be entitled to embrace ignorance while not imposing it on others.
Let us keep the issues simple. The RH Bill is primarily about education and individual responsibility, nothing more. It is not about a higher moral calling, the meaning of life, nor good versus evil. Discussion should therefore focus 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 is not useful. We need a national conversation that is civil and intelligent, one that neither caters to our emotional instincts nor to pre-ordained and exclusionary judgments cast in moral stone.
As for the claim that, like Sodom and Gomorrah, reproductive health has brought God’s wrath and the floods upon us, what can I say. I guess it beats fire and brimstone but then again, perhaps it is just total non-sense.