NOTE: "Leadership Reflections" shares views of the different members of the University Leadership Council on matters related to campus life and the operations of the University. As well, it features opinions on issues of national and/or international relevance.
RH Bill: A Boon or Bane to Society?
By Dr. Maria Cecilia M. Genove, Dean, College of Mass Communication
If there is a strong argument on the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, it is the ever-growing population of the Philippines. According to the latest statistics on the country’s demographical data, there are now 96 million Filipinos, a considerable increase in the last 10 years or so, or a growth rate of at least four to six percent every year. Translated to more significant data, five to six babies are born in the country every minute, a staggering information considering that the Philippines is, until today, still referred to by its neighboring countries as a developing economy.
Thus, the latest proposed legislation in both the Senate and the House of Representatives has left the Filipino people extremely polarized. A lot of considerations have emerged in several discussions essentially because the staunchest opposition to the passage of the RH Bill comes from the Catholic Church. This is understandable because the Philippines remains to be the only Christian nation in the Far East and with the colonization of Spain for almost four centuries, Catholicism is widespread and prevalent.
Some sectors contend that the RH Bill boils down to the freedom of choice among couples and those who are sexually active. Others reason out that procreation is God’s legacy to His people. On the other hand, women – who bear the brunt of childbirth and its perils – say that they have the right to choose what is best for them, meaning, if their bodies could not withstand the rigors of childbirth, then they have all the right to take care of their own bodies.
Examining closely the advantages and disadvantages of the RH Bill, the former far outweighs the latter, that is, there are more benefits that the majority of Filipinos can get compared to not having such a bill passed for legislation in the country.
What is needed in the RH Bill is widespread information and dissemination of the various family planning methods and contraceptives that are available for couples. While the rich, educated couples understand the choices that they have, the poor folk – who comprise the majority – hardly have any knowledge on their options because they lack education. But, the lack of education is going to be another story or, on the contrary, the lack of education may be related to the passage of the RH Bill.
The poor comprise the majority of Filipinos. Because they are poor, they necessarily lack education or have no education at all. Who, then, will teach and guide these people about their choices, especially in the number of children that they can have or are able to support? Again, because of a dearth of knowledge, these people simply just leave it to fate if it happens that the wife gets pregnant almost every year.
The issue is not abortion at all. It is a totally different aspect of the entire discussion. The issue is giving the people a choice of whether they will adapt the family planning methods that have been suggested for them. It is for them to take it or leave it. If the people so desire that they would choose from among the artificial family planning methods available, then it is their choice. The bottomline is that these information should be made available for everyone and explained to them, most especially those who have no capacity to learn and understand. These people are the ones most vulnerable.
It is about time that family planning be included as part of the curriculum in schools and universities. The inclusion of sex education has been practiced in the past, but was phased out because of some opposition. Let this be revived today because of the need of the youth to be informed about their rights as a human being. Parents should also help the schools in making their children understand the pitfalls of early marriage or teen pregnancy. If the people are properly informed, then they would be able to make intelligent choices for their own betterment. In the process, they would be empowered.
It is interesting to note the latest statistics coming from the Social Weather Station under the supervision of Mr. Mahar Mangahas, which revealed that in the June 2011 survey, only 30 percent agreed and 51 percent disagreed that the use of condoms constitutes abortion. Furthermore, only 29 percent agreed and 51 percent disagreed that the use of IUDs constitutes abortion. Also, only 29 percent agreed and 52 disagreed that the use of birth control pills constitutes abortion. The results of the survey likewise revealed that the balances from 100 percent, roughly 2 out of every 10 adult Filipinos, were unable to take a stand.
Let us take a more discerning look at the RH Bill. There may be more than meets the eye with the passage of this controversial legislation.