Reproductive health bill revisited

Published by rudy Date posted on January 14, 2009

I am sure that upon the resumption of Congress on Jan. 19, there will be renewed efforts by contraception advocates to push for the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008, which in effect would institutionalize contraception to control the booming population. Advocates claim this is responsible for poverty in the country.

I’d like to revisit the controversy which has divided Congress between the pro-life and the anti-life advocates. This bill has been denounced by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines as contrary to the Gospel of Life.

In this column, I will not dwell on what the Catholic Church stands for, although I believe as a Catholic, fidelity to the Church is fidelity to Christ.

Rather, I’ll argue against the bill proposed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. I will be speaking on what’s right and what’s wrong—and what’s constitutional and what’s not.

***

First of all, the Lagman bill is being pushed as a panacea to solve poverty in the Philippines. The lobbyists for the bill argue that a runaway population increases the incidence of poverty. The population is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions within 20 years. This will mean less resources for people to partake of. Wrong.

Our population growth rate, according to the National Statistics Office, is 2.4 percent; total fertility rate is 3.02 The CIA World Factbook has lower figures-growth rate at 1.728 percent and fertility rate at 3 percent.

Population density is 277 per square kilometer. Gross domestic product per capita is $3,400. Fifty other countries have a much lower density, yet their per capita is also much lower. Thirty-six countries are more densely populated, yet their GDP per capital is also much higher. All these simply mean that the few are not at all richer, and the many always poorer. Santa Banana, so, why control population and resort to contraception which in effect prevents life?

Statistics also show that our median age is 23 years,which means there are more young among us than old. Take a look at the registration of voters and it will show you that the majority of voters are from ages 18 to 35. In 139 other countries, the median age is as high as 45.5 years. This means that a Filipino has more productive years ahead of him than his counterparts in the rich countries where the graying and dying population is no longer being replaced because of negative birth rates.

It is a fact that in Singapore, which went on populations control years back, is now in full reverse with the Singaporean government encouraging and even giving incentives for the young to marry and have children because of a negative birth rate. In fact, records show that the reason Singapore is hiring foreign workers and domestic helpers is because of its dying and graying population.

Thus, the Lagman bill is not only an oxymoron, but based on a wrong promise. My gulay, as I said, it’s not only against life, but it’s a proposal that has no leg to stand on because of a flawed premise. In logic, if the premise is wrong, nothing else is right.

***

I maintain that population is not threat to progress. The problem, however, is that the Lagman bill makes the state determine how many children one may have. This is a constraint on individual freedom.

If we trace history, with individual freedom comes progress and development, and with overgovernance comes poverty. Aside from this, human settlements accounts for less than 3 percent of the earth’s land area, and if the entire world population were to move to the state of Texas, each person would still have 1,400 square feet. Besides, more people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. The exception naturally is in the former communist countries and the most isolated parts of Africa.

What the Lagman bill espouses is a population problem that isn’t.

***

What I find truly objectionable as a Filipino who believes in freedom and the rule of law are provisions of the Lagman bill that violate my freedom under a democratic space that we live in.

It would seem that the bill assumes that the Philippines is a centrally planned economy or a totalitarian state which controls the private lives of its citizens. Certainly, what I do in my marital bed is no business of government but my own free will and choice, just as the state may not tell me what to write, think or speak.

Santa Banana, the Lagman bill would like the state to enter my bedroom and dictate what I should do or not do.

Section 21, for instance, penalizes any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent of provisions of this act. As to what constitutes “malicious disinformation,” we do not know. My gulay, if the Lagman bill ever gets enacted into law, I could be penalized for opposing it.

Clearly, this is prior restraint on the freedom of speech and my press freedom as a journalist, a provision held sacrosanct by the Constitution.

There is also Section 9 of the bill that provides “tubal ligation, vasectomy, intrauterine device insertion and other family planning methods requiring hospital services shall be available in all national and local services… For indigent patients, such services shall be fully covered by PhilHealth insurance and/or government financial assistance.”

Why should Catholics who believe in pro-life like me be made to pay for this? It’s downright extortion by law using taxpayer’s money to provide contraception violative of the belief of many Catholics, health workers included.

***

There are sections in the Lagman bill that go on and violate individual freedom and free will, like Section 17 that provides mandates Collective Bargaining Agreement for free delivery by the employer of reproductive health devices. There are penalties for non-compliance.

Santa Banana, this openly violates religious freedom as a fundamental right. It mocks the conscience and rights of employers to so act, on grounds of religious belief.

The bill wants to give us Filipinos a free choice since we are not all Roman Catholics. There are some who are Protestants, who believe in contraception, and so do Muslims and other religious denominations. But, a closer look at the Lagman bill show that there are instances where the state intrudes on our rights as citizens and our free will as children of God.

Here we are living in a democratic state, and here’s bill that will lessen our civil rights as citizens. It’s for these and a lot more why I oppose the Lagman bill. –Emil Jurado, Manila Standard Today

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