Very early this morning, I joined the "Walk for Life"- a Pro-Life/Anti-RH bill march from our parish to San Pedro Cathedral here in Davao City. There were thousands from other parishes in the city who also marched to the cathedral. The mass started at 6 am, presided by Bishop George Rimando, with Archbishop Capalla and some 50 priests concelebrating. Archbishop Capalla gave the homily.
In other parts of the country, a similar rally was being held - with the biggest in Manila tonight, led by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales.
There is a ongoing deliberation in Congress on House Bill 4244 - formerly called Reproductive Health bill and now renamed Responsible Parenthood Bill. The bill is supported by the present administration and many progressive and civil society groups. It is being opposed by the Catholic Church and other religious groups..
After studying the bill thouroughly and read many of the arguments (for and against), I have made a personal stand against it. I am not in favor of this bill.
It appears to me that the bill is based on a false assumption:
-that there is a crisis of population explosion in country,
- that the continuing poverty of our people can be traced to this overpopulation and that this is a hindrance to sustainable development.
- therefore it is necessary for the governmen to adopt an aggressive/draconian measures to impose population control such as providing reproductive health services (free contraceptives) and sex education starting at Grade Five.
- this will require a substantial budget taken from the taxes.
The bill does not promote abortion, but requires hospitals to give preferential attention to women with post-abortion complication. There are contraceptives that induce abortion (abortifacient) such as the RUH pills. Thus, it may gives impression that while it explicitly denies promoting abortion, it condones and encourages it. The term "Reproductive Health" which is linked with "reproductive rights" in other parts of the world is often understood to include women's right to free choice (including termination of pregnancy or abortion). That is why the agenda of the IPPF all over the world is to promote legislation that will make abortion safe and legal. Thus, in many countries abortion is part of the means to control population growth. But the bill does not adopt that due to constitutional restraints - but it condones and even encourages it by adding the provision on post-abortion complications..
This bill is based on a false assumption that there is a crisis of overpopulation. In fact, population growth in the Philippines has gone down to 2.02 (according to NSO figures) or 1.78 (according to CIA factbook). The total fertility rate has declined to 3.1 in 2008 (from average of 7 in 1960)and is projected to decline to 2.21 (near the ideal replacement level) by 2020. The population density of the Philippines (210/sq km) is much lower than highly developed countries like Hongkong, Singapore, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, etc..
The crisis that the world (especially the West and highly industrialized society that have adopted aggressive population control programs) is facing is actually the coming "demographic winter" - an aging and shrinking population (more older people, less young people). This will mean a problem with human resources that will affect sustainable economic growth. Thus, there is a turn-around in these countries - they now promote reproduction and provide benefits to those who bear more children instead of penalizing them. Meanwhile, these societies are resorting to migrant labor to fill up their workforce requirements. The Philippines is one of the beneficiaries - that is why we have many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). But a time will come when the Philippines could also face the same problem - it may take longer (perhaps 50 years) or it could be hastened by an aggresive population control program..
The RH bill is based on the false assumption that overpopulation is a contributing factor to the perpetuation of poverty and underdevelopment. To ensure sustainable economic development there is a need to control population growth by any means necessary (contraception, sex education, etc). Thus, what will the government provide to the majority of the people who are poor and hungry? Give them condoms, pills, tubal ligation, vasectomy and sex education and use our scarce funds from our taxes to fund this program. The main beneficiaries of this program will be the drug companies that provide the contraceptives..
This is actually a rehash of the Mathusian theory that has long been debunked by economists. Poverty and underdevelopment continues due to graft and corruption, unequal distribution of wealth, unjust economic system that favors the local elite and foreign companies. What is needed is to stamped out graft and corruption, a comprehensive poverty alleviation program, improved education program, better health services, etc.
The issue that we face is not about whether contraception should be allowed or not (it is already legal), or which is the better family planning method (natural or artificial). Rather, the state pursue an an aggressive and mandatory population control policy based on false assumptions that will use our limited resources, that will have negative repercussion in the future, that will create unnecessary tension between the Church and the State?.
We have to value new life in the mother's womb as a gift and a source of hope rather a burden, another mouth to feed. Human resource is the most important resource of every society. We have to avoid an anti-life attitude and policies.
I make this position knowing that many of my friends in Civil Society groups are supporting the RH Bill (and some have already chided me for being not politically correct). It is in line with the Consistent Ethic of Life. As I run/walk across the Philippines starting next week, I will preach about the Gospel of life and peace. The RH bill will be one of the concerns I will talk about, besides mining & logging, the extrajudicial killings, and the armed conflict.