Ateneo students back faculty in birth-control fight

Published by rudy Date posted on March 2, 2009

SAYING Catholics can support the reproductive health bill in good conscience, students of the Ateneo de Manila University have endorsed the immediate passage of House Bill 5043 on family planning in defiance of Catholic bishops and university officials.

The Ateneo Student Leaders, Ateneo Economics Association, Ateneo Social Science Circle, and Ateneo Debate Society issued separate petitions supporting the position of 69 Ateneo professors who publicly supported the bill last year.

The students echoed the position of the Ateneo professors and said they wanted men and women to have full access to contraceptives, an informed choice, and age-appropriate sex education in private and public schools.

Last year, the Ateneo professors’ petition prompted the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to ask the university’s president, Bienvenido Nebres, to explain why the institution was opposing the Catholic Church’s stand on the issue.

Nebres then met with the Ateneo professors and came up with a memorandum saying that the Ateneo, as a Catholic school, “is one with the bishops in opposing the controversial RH bill but encourages debate on the issue.”

The Ateneo students and leaders of the four student groups sent petitions to Congress to pass the measure, which is now nearing passage in second reading at the House of Representatives.

“We, the Social Science Circle, fully support and encourage the passage of the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act [also known as House Bill 5043]. House Bill 5043 protects the fundamental rights of women, the poor, and the youth, and serves to better their quality of life by giving them access to maternal and reproductive healthcare and educating and helping them make informed and responsible choices about their lives and the lives of their families,” the group said in its petition.

“We, the Ateneo Economics Association, believe that the reproductive health bill protects lives, is pro-economic development, implies long-term effort and minimizes health risks,” the association said, adding that it studied the bill’s economic implications.

The economics students said those who against the bill could argue that the Philippines is an agrarian economy and a bigger population is an economic advantage because the country theoretically becomes more productive.

“True, that an increase in population leads to more manpower and productivity, yet if no corresponding increase in income is met to make sure that the basic needs of the people are satisfied, then one misses the point of having productivity raised in the first place,” they argued.

While one additional person could increase the country’s productivity, “if that person does not eat [three] times a day, have no access to medical care and other basic necessities, then one reduces the person to merely a machine, only existing to work, and not having any human and basic needs,” the economics students said.

“Therefore, a comprehensive and completely objective view of poverty tells us that population is not only [or even the greatest] cause of poverty. We believe that there are other factors which are causal in relation to poverty such as declining standards of education, unequal income distribution, corruption and ill-economic strategies,” the association said in its petition.

The economics students said they believed that passing the RH bill would provide citizens with better access to health care, increased awareness of reproductive health and family planning, and the ability to better support their families to increase their quality of life.

The Ateneo Student Leaders say they support the passage of the bill as it seeks to address critical aspects of deprivation in the country: access to information, access to maternal health care, and empowerment of local government units.

“We recognize the need to discuss the issue in a holistic manner, comprising of political, sociological, economic and environmental dimensions. Nevertheless, we also believe that beyond these disciplines, it is most essential to focus on the complete well-being of the human person,” the student leaders said.– Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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