Amid the domestic fallout of skyrocketing food and oil prices world- wide and a tottering international financial system, some lawmakers have embarked on a high-profile campaign to ram through a population control-driven bill that threatens the sanctity of human life, family life and marriage, without regard to their honored place in our Constitution and our Christian culture.
The population has many problems. But population is not itself the problem. Assuming there are problems associated with population growth, the reproductive health bill does not provide any answers. I hope the following will help put this bill to rest and allow the nation to devote its time, energy and resources to its real and more pressing problems.
1. THE BILL IS BASED ON A FLAWED PREMISE.
There is no “population explosion” and the country is not overpopulated.
The population growth rate and the total fertility rate (TFR) have declined. The National Statistics Office puts the growth rate at 2.04 %, the TFR at 3.02. However, the CIA World Factbook (2008), for one, puts the growth rate at 1.728%, the TFR at 3.00. Whatever the real numbers are, at least one million Filipinos leave the country for foreign jobs every year. There are at least 12 million Filipinos now living and working abroad.
The country has a population density of 277 Filipinos per square km, with a GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) of $,3400. The Central African Republic has a population density of 6.5 and a GDP per capita (PPP) of $700. At least 50 countries have a much lower population density than that of the Philippines, yet their GDP per capita is also much lower.
Fact: the few are not always richer.
On the other hand, at least 36 countries have a much higher population density than that of the Philippines, yet their GDP per capita is also much higher. Macau has 18,428 people per square km and a GDP per capita of $28,400; Monaco has 16,754 people per square km, with a per capita income of $30,000; Hong Kong has 6,407 per square km, and a per capita income of $42,000; and Singapore has 6,489 per square km., and a per capita income of $49,700.
Fact: the many are not always poorer.
The most critical statistic has to do with the age structure of the population. Worldwide, the median age is 27.4 years. In the Philippines, it is 23 years. In at least 139 countries it is higher than 23; in 73 others, lower. All the developed countries are on the high side. Monaco has the highest (45.5 years), followed by Japan (43.8), Germany (43.4), Italy (42.9), Sweden (41.3), Spain (40.7), Switzerland (40.7), Holland (40), United Kingdom (39.9), France (39.2), Singapore (38.4), Russia (38.3), United States (36.7), South Korea (36.4). In China, the world’s fastest growing economy, it is 33.6.
This means a Filipino has more years to be productive than his counterpart in the developed world, where the population is graying and dying, without adequate replacement because of negative birth rates. Those who understand this well will tend to be more confident of the future; they will see the need to invest more extensively in the development of this resource.
2. THE BILL IS TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.
Except for the purported objective of treating infertility and preventing abortion, which (if government is serious) may be immediately addressed by secondary health policy, the things the bill wants to do are already being done, whether legally or not.
Officially-sponsored contraception and sterilization are ongoing with foreign and local funding, even without a legal mandate. Punishable abortions go unpunished.. Certain things that are lawful and necessary (like promotion of breast-feeding, infant and child health and nutrition) can be done easily without legislation. Some truly repugnant things (like mandatory sex education for young children, inclusion of contraceptives and abortifacients in the National Drug Formulary as essential medicines, and making a family planning compliance certificate from the civil registrar a requirement for marriage) should not be legislated at all.
There is free access to information on contraception. No law bars anyone from using contraceptives of their choice, it is a free market. You don’t need the government for it. Consumers however must pay for their own, as they pay for everything else. The Philippines is not a welfare state, nobody gets a free lunch. If the government has the money, it should spend it to save women from killer-diseases, not on trying to cure pregnancy, which is not a disease.
At least 80 women are said to die from heart diseases everyday; 63 from vascular diseases; 51 from cancer; 45 from pneumonia; 23 from tuberculosis; 22 from diabetes; 16 from lower chronic respiratory diseases. This is where the State should provide, if it could, free medicine and medical services.
Now, out of every 100,000 live births, some 107 women are said to die from complications during childbirth. This is 107 too many. But the local executives of Gattaran, Cagayan and Sorsogon City have shown that maternal death during childbirth could be brought down to zero simply by providing women with adequate basic and emergency obstetric care facilities and skilled medical services. Not contraceptives.
On July 29, 2005, the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that after a thorough review of the published scientific literature, it was concluded that oral contraceptives are carcinogenic to humans ---they cause breast, liver and cervical cancer. In light of that, the government should probably ban the carcinogens or at least label them as “cancer-causing,” or “dangerous to women’s health.” But some legislators, some of them doctors too, still want to distribute them as “essential medicines” to our women. Why?
3. THE BILL ASSUMES THAT THE STATE IS OMNIPOTENT. IT SEEKS TO CONFER UPON THE STATE A RIGHT AND AUTHORITY IT DOES NOT, AND CAN NEVER, POSSESS.
No one questions the right of the State to levy taxes, to expropriate private property for public use, to conscript able-bodied young men for its defense. But the State may not enter the family bedroom and tell married couples how to practice marital love.
For while it is a citizen who casts his vote, pays his taxes and fights for his flag, it is a man who embraces his wife and fathers her child. There are certain areas, certain activities of man as man where every individual is accountable only to God, and completely autonomous from the State. These are sacred and inviolate areas where the State may not intrude.
Allow the State to invade our innermost private lives, and it will just be a matter of time before we are told we can no longer breathe unless the State allows it.
4. THE BILL IS PATENTLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
a) Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution provides: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”
“Sanctity”---the state of being holy---is an attribute of God. God is not outside our lives; the very first words of the Constitution proclaim it: “We, the sovereign Filipino People, imploring the aid of Almighty God…” Obedience to God’s laws, therefore, is not only a solemn teaching of the Church, but also an express constitutional mandate.
The government cannot be party to a program that seeks to prevent one married woman from conceiving, without making a mockery of that mandate. That is the necessary implication of the State’s duty to “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”
b). Article XV recognizes “marriage as an inviolable social institution,” and “the foundation of the family.” Which, in turn, the State recognizes as “the foundation of the nation.” Section 3 (1) of the same Article binds the State to defend “the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”
Clearly, this does not allow the State to tell members of any faith ---in this case the Catholic faith---not to listen to what their Church teaches on faith and morals, or responsible parenthood, but to listen to the politicians and the population controllers instead.
But this is precisely what the bill seeks to do.
5. THE BILL IS DESTRUCTIVE OF PUBLIC MORALS AND FAMILY VALUES.
It seeks to legislate a hedonistic sex-oriented lifestyle whose aim is to assure couples and everybody else of “a safe and satisfying sex life” (the other term for contraceptive sex), instead of a mutually fulfilling conjugal life, and ultimately change time-honored Filipino values about human life, family life, marriage, in favor of the most destructive counter-values that are wreaking havoc on the morals of many consumerist societies.
6. THE BILL IS PARTICULARLY UNJUST TO CATHOLIC TAXPAYERS, WHO CONSTITUTE THE MAJORITY, AND WHO WILL BE MADE TO BEAR THE COST OF THE PROGRAM THAT WILL ULTIMATELY ATTACK A CONSTANTLY HELD DOCTRINE OF THEIR FAITH.
The same objection would hold even if the affected party were a religious minority. In fact, it should be interesting to find out whether any legislator will dare propose any legislation that is doctrinally and morally offensive to Islam or to any politically active local religious group.
7. THE BILL IS NOT WHAT ITS AUTHORS SAY IT IS. IT IS EVERYTHING THEY SAY IT IS NOT.
Not only is it hedonistic, it is above all eugenicist. It seeks to eliminate the poor and the “socially unfit” while paying lip service to their cause. While it neither mandates a two-child family nor legalizes abortion, it prepares the ground for both.
Its declared objective of population reduction conforms to the global population policy launched by U.S. National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 200 in 1974, under the title IMPLICATIONS OF WORLDWIDE POPULATION GROWTH FOR U.S. SECURITY AND OVERSEAS INTERESTS. It targeted the Philippines, along with India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Columbia.
NSSM 200, also known as The Kissinger Report, called for a two-child family worldwide by the year 2000, using universal contraception and abortion. “No country has reduced its population growth without resorting to abortion,” the Report said. In 1974, NSSM 200 estimated thirty million abortions worldwide. The annual rate has doubled since.
The U.S. legalized abortion in 1973 in the Supreme Court ruling in Roe vs. Wade. Since then the abortion campaign has not abated. The 1974 international conference on population in Bucharest, on the eve of NSSM 200, had since been followed by the international conference in Mexico in 1984, the Cairo conference in 1994, the Beijing conference on Women in 1995, and all the other international conferences which tried to push abortion as a method of family planning, whether the subject of the conference was food, housing, or environment.
At the United Nations, the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) Committee continues to exert pressure on party nations to legalize abortion or increase access to abortion. From 1995 to 200, 65 party nations were so pressured, according to a 2008 document. These included the Philippines whose delegate (Health Undersecretary Nieto) was told by the Committee Member from Croatia, China and Ghana in 2006 to decriminalize abortion and put aside religious considerations and its “unrealistic approach” to abortion.
8. ENACTMENT OF THE BILL WILL ONLY DEEPEN THE IGNORANCE ABOUT THE ISSUES INVOLVED.
Some defenders of the bill claim that nine out of ten women (who must be Catholic) want to contracept, regardless of what the Church teaches about it. Sad, but if the claim is correct, then nine out of ten “Catholic” women need to be instructed more deeply on the doctrines of their faith and on the harmful effects of contraceptives and abortifacients. Not everything an individual wants is good or right; the truth is never the result of opinion surveys. Contraception is wrong not because the Church has banned it; the Church has banned it because it is wrong. No amount of surveys can change that.
The authors of the bill suggest that Catholics need not follow what the bishops are saying because Humanae Vitae, Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth, is not an infallible document. This is an unfortunate conclusion from an incomplete premise.
Church teaching on contraception did not begin with Paul VI. Onan’s case (Gen 38:8-10) is absolute proof; Pius XI and Pius XII pronounced on it before Humanae Vitae, appealing to Scripture, to the Fathers of the Church, and to tradition. While Humanae Vitae was not infallibly proposed, its teaching has been held definitively by all Catholic bishops. It meets the criteria set forth by Vatican II for an infallible exercise of the ordinary magisterium of the bishops throughout the world. As the theologian Russell Shaw points out, the Church has always taught contraception to be gravely sinful; she has never taught that it is good, permissible, or even only venially sinful.
9. THE NATURAL REGULATION OF CONCEPTIONS DOES NOT OFFEND THE CONSTITUTION OR THE RELIGIOUS BELIEF OF ANY COUPLE; IT IS IN FULL ACCORD WITH THE DEMANDS OF RESPONSIBLE PARENTHOOD, AND IS NOT CONTRACEPTION AT ALL. NO LAW IS NEEDED FOR THE STATE TO SUPPORT IT.
The Billings Method, which takes advantage of the fertility rhythm of the human body, has been attested by the WHO to be 99% effective. But as there is no money in it, no industry has promoted it like the various contraceptives and abortifacients. State support for it could spell the difference.
(Former Senator Francisco S. Tatad represents Asia-Pacific on the Governing Boards of International Right to Life Federation, Cincinnati, Ohio, and World Youth Alliance, New York, NY.)
7 August 2008