A talk given at Sarangani Study Center, Manila
26 November 2011
The Reproductive Health (RH) bill has engaged us for so long, but until now the debate remains wrongly framed. We have been discussing what the proponents say the bill is all about rather than what the bill really says. It is time to set the basic premises right.
MISREPRESENTING THE BILL
The bill has been completely misrepresented to the public. Mislabeled as an RH bill, it is actually a population control bill. Its reference to the Committee on Population rather than to the Committee on Health in the House of Representatives is the closest admission by its proponents that it is, in fact, a population control measure. There is a world of difference between health and population control.
Also deliberately misstated is the true intent of the bill. Its proponents have tried to tell us that the bill simply seeks to grant everyone the “right” to practice contraception and sterilization as a method of family planning. The facts say otherwise.
Nobody’s “right” to practice contraception and sterilization, if such a right exists, has ever been curtailed. There is no law prohibiting it in the Philippines. Anyone so minded can practice it, and they are doing so mindlessly, at the prodding and pleasure of the Department of Health (DOH), Population Commission (Popcom), and local governments now joyfully pursuing the RH programs of some intrusive foreign governments.
The present budget for it is at least P2 billion, not including the money coming directly to local governments from foreign population controllers. And that accounts for the national contraceptive prevalence rate of 51 percent.
So let us not be deceived.
THE BILL’S REAL PURPOSE
What the bill really wants to do is to make birth control a necessary precondition and an essential component of marriage, and to make the State the primary and ultimate provider of contraceptives and sterilization agents.
Thus, no couple may be issued a marriage license unless they could show proof that they had received state instructions on the use of contraceptives and sterilization agents.
A BOGUS CHOICE
The RH proponents claim the bill gives everyone a choice . Indeed, there is an illusion of that, but only an illusion, nothing more. For while the bill mentions natural family planning (NFP) as an option, NFP is not a means of contraception or sterilization, but rather a way of life, a natural means of spacing birth for grave personal reasons, without resorting to contraception or sterilization.
Even so, the bill says nothing about how the government intends to promote NFP and make sure those who need it would get it. On the other hand, the bill reads like a virtual manual on how hospitals, clinics and other institutions and facilities, public and private, are to distribute contraceptives and sterilization agents as essential medicines.
THE STATE CHOOSES
But the real offence here is not just that you are given a bogus choice. The more outrageous offence is that the bill decides for you, at the outset, that you shall practice birth control as a necessary precondition and an essential component of marriage.
No longer will procreation and the rearing of children be the primary and natural purpose of marriage; contraceptive sex will now take its place.
Couples will still marry, no longer to procreate, but just to indulge in “safe sex” without any responsibility or consequence.
Thus, the maddening drive to promote gay or same-sex “marriage,” not only because it is totally unnatural but above all because it is absolutely childless.
That is the real evil. Even in the United States, Europe and other non-communist countries where abortion is allowed, the State has simply legalized the diabolical destruction of unborn babies. But it does not quite prescribe it.
A TOTALITARIAN PRACTICE
The Nazis prescribed it within their occupied territories during World War II, but the Nuremberg military tribunal later condemned it as a crime against humanity. They did it and still do in communist countries, with the tacit support and encouragement, instead of condemnation or criticism, from the UN and the “great democracies.”
This is probably why our local communist friends in Congress and in the NGO world are among the most rabid and organized supporters of RH, even though the old party’s two warring factions---the “reaffirmists” and the “rejectionists”---cannot seem to agree on anything else.
We are neither a communist nor a totalitarian state. But if enacted into law, the RH bill will make us one or the other in practice. Indeed, the bill seeks to destroy not only the institution of the family and marriage but also the very nature and foundation of our constitutional democratic state. This has so far escaped the appreciation of the public.
DANCING AROUND THE FRINGES
Until now, we have argued to death the secondary and ancillary issues. But we have barely touched the real issue that should decide the fate of RH.
The proponents have tried to show us why we need the bill. And we have shown them why we don’t. But they have not shown us how they could transform this questionable bill into a valid and acceptable law. And we have not had enough opportunity to tell them they couldn’t.
WHAT THEY SAY
This is what they have said:
We are poor because we are too many and the population continues to explode. Eleven women out of every 100,000 are dying everyday from pregnancy and childbirth. Our environment has become unsustainable because of “population explosion” and climate change. We need the RH bill to solve all of these.
WHAT WE SAY
And this is what we have said:
On population growth. Our growth rate is down to 1.9 percent, and our total fertility rate to 2.6 children per woman of reproductive age. Our population density stands at 315 (individuals) per square km., while those of much richer Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau and Monaco run into thousands per square km.
Japan’s median age is 45 years; ours is 22. This means that when the world’s 65-year-olds and above grown twice as many as the 15-year-olds and above, or when Japan’s economy becomes almost wholly dependent on robots, we shall still be having able-bodied young men and women in our workforce.
At Halloween 2011, world population passed 7 billion. Yet serious and responsible demographers have identified depopulation, not growing population, as the next world crisis. According to the Moscow Declaration issued at the end of the Moscow Demographic Summit on June 29-30, 2011, 42 percent of the population today live in countries where the birth rate has fallen below replacement level; the demographic winter in Russia, Europe and Japan is spreading.
On maternal death. The verified number is much lower than 11 a day, and so many times more than that number are dying from cancer, heart, respiratory and pulmonary diseases, tuberculosis, diabetes, malaria, and accidents.
This is not to say we should care less about maternal deaths. We should be concerned about every single person who dies, whether she is carrying a cancer or a pregnancy, delivering a child or a contagious disease, waiting for a bus ride or a heart attack, trying to cross the poverty line or a busy street. But problems of maternal death are best addressed by providing adequate maternal and obstetrics care, not by requiring everyone to contracept or get sterilized.
Something is terribly wrong when vast resources of foreign governments, multilateral agencies, the whole NGO world the conscript media and the propaganda pollsters are used to try to cure pregnancy, which is not a disease, while vast numbers of people die from killer-diseases and are treated simply as statistics.
On the environment. The Constitution says, “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and natural harmony of nature.” But the human body is our first and most precious environment. We cannot be talking of preserving our forests, air, lands, waters and seas while destroying our delicate human bodies every day with cancer-causing contraceptives and sterilization agents.
Summing up, our healthy and dynamic population is our most enduring resource. We need only to invest in it to ensure sustained productivity and high returns. Our present investment in it is among the lowest in the world.
BREAKING THE STALEMATE
What then is the status of the RH debate? It’s not easy to say, and I am not referring to what’s happening floor in Congress. We reject what they say, and they reject what we say, and the apparent result is an unbreakable stalemate. But the conscript media and the propaganda pollsters seem bent on breaking it in favor of the party that pays. Truth suffers in the process.
THE FINAL QUESTION
But assuming everything they have said is right, and everything we have said is wrong, can Congress now enact this bill into law? This is the only question which, in the end, carries any real meaning in this debate.
My simple answer is, Congress cannot. Why? Because Congress can pass no law that violates the Constitution, and the RH bill violates the Constitution. It is null and void ab initio.
THE UNWRITTEN LAW
Whether or not it is specifically written in the Constitution, it is not the lawful business of the State to organize, control or direct the personal and private sexual lives of its citizens. This matter involves rights intrinsic to human nature and as basic and as self-evident as man’s right to breathe. Such state intrusion violates the primacy of the human person vis-à-vis the State, and betrays a patent lack of justice.
AN UNJUST LAW
Thus, even if all the members of the two Houses of Congress, without a single exception, were to vote in favor of the bill--- a rather absurd possibility----the result would only be an unjust law. That law would simply divide the nation more deeply, but it would be a useless law. For an unjust law is no law. It cannot bind anyone. Not even in a dictatorship, much less in a democracy.
Assuming then that Congress passes the bill, the President has the duty to veto it, rather than sign it or let it lapse into law. He would render himself impeachable if he allows it to become a law, and that could be just one of the lesser problems of his presidency.
Let us now examine its constitutionality.
We turn to Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies), Article III (Bill of Rights) and Article XV (The Family) of the Constitution. In Article II, Sections 11 to 16 may be initially cited, but let us just focus on what I call the core of these provisions, Section 12.
PROTECTOR OF CONCEPTION
1) Sec. 12 of Article II 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.”
Let’s concentrate on that second sentence: “It (the State) shall equally protect the life of the unborn and the life of the unborn from conception.”
Clear enough? Crystal. But for even greater clarity, let us break the sentence into two parts. The first part says, the State shall protect the life of the mother as soon as she begins conceiving. The second part says the State shall protect the life of the unborn as soon as it is conceived.
PREVENTER OF CONCEPTION TOO?
Does that provision give the State the right or duty to do anything to prevent any woman from conceiving? Does it?
It does not seem so. Otherwise, the provision would have been worded differently. The provision would have said that the State shall protect the life of the unborn from conception, provided it survives the State’s program of contraception. But that is not what it says.
The necessary implication of protecting the life of the unborn from conception is that the State cannot do anything and shall not do anything to prevent even one solitary woman from conceiving.
As protector of conception, the State cannot at the same time be the preventer or destroyer of conception. That is the principle of non-contradiction, the first principle of speculative reason.
AN IRRELEVANT QUESTION
Now, the Constitution does not say exactly when conception occurs. How then will the State know when its duty to protect the unborn begins? Upon fertilization or upon implantation? We have always known the right answer, but that question does not arise at all.
Medical science has long established that conception takes place upon fertilization. The abortion lobby, however, has come up with the ideological position that it takes place upon implantation. With that abortionists could claim that no abortion was committed if the fetus was killed before implantation.
But, at whatever point conception occurs, the State’s duty under the Constitution does not change. As protector of the life of the unborn from conception, it cannot do anything to prevent any woman from conceiving. The protector of conception cannot at the same time be the preventer and destroyer of conception. The State cannot have a program of contraception and sterilization. Full stop.
Thus, on the basis of that single line in Article II of the Constitution, the entire RH bill falls. The debate ends here.
THE RELIGIOUS DIMENSION
But there is an added dimension. This has to do with the religious question.
Sec 5 of Article III (Bill of Rights) provides:
“No law shall be made respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”
Section 3 (1) of Article XV (The Family) further provides:
“The State shall defend the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.’’
Now the Catholic Church condemns contraception and sterilization as intrinsically evil. It enjoins Catholics not to engage in contraception or sterilization for the good of their body and soul. That notwithstanding, the RH bill seeks to impose contraception and sterilization upon everyone, without regard to their religious convictions.
Not only does the bill require Catholics to act against their own moral convictions. It also requires them to use their taxes to pay for the program that seeks to destroy those convictions. They would be made to pay for the bullets that would be used to kill them.
Religious persecution pure and simple.
The Catholics did not have to be the overwhelming religious majority to have the right to profess and practice their faith, without any discrimination from any source. That right belongs to all. And the smallest religious group with only a handful of members has as much right as the most numerous church.
Whatever our faith, we do not have to explain to Congress why we believe what we believe. We do not have to justify our conviction that contraception is intrinsically evil, even though the legislators would probably benefit if we said something about it; and there is a chance some of them might be converted. It is sufficient for the State to know that we believe what we believe and its duty would be to respect our right to believe what we believe.
The fact that some “Catholics” do not follow what the Church teaches does not give Congress the right to enact a law against any particular teaching of the Church. We do not ask Congress to act as the official enforcer of our Catholic belief. But we cannot allow Congress to disrespect or trample upon our Catholic belief or any other religious belief.
In any case, we now ask Congress and the President to recognize the fact that the RH bill is an anti-Catholic bill which they have no right to impose upon Catholics. As Catholics and as democrats, we have a right, if not a duty, to resist it, with our lives if necessary, should they ever inflict it upon our people.
WHO’S IMPOSING ON WHOM?
We are asked not to impose our Catholic belief on non-Catholics. We hear this even from well-meaning sources who should know the real score. There is no attempt to impose Catholic belief on anyone. Some non-Catholics and non-believers, however, expect Catholics to tolerate their belief or non-belief, without any effort or desire on their part to reciprocate. They construe the Catholic position against the RH bill as an assault on their “right” to practice contraception and sterilization.
This is a complete misunderstanding of the principles and the facts. Catholic rejection of RH has not prevented, and is not intended to prevent non-Catholics and non-believers from believing, if they do, that contraception and sterilization are good for their health and soul and from contracepting and getting themselves sterilized. The abandonment of the RH bill---which we hope and pray will come soon---would still not affect their “right” to contracept or get themselves sterilized.
But their insistence that Catholics practice contraception and sterilization, regardless of their moral and religious convictions, is an unprovoked, unnecessary and unacceptable attack upon the Catholic Church and its flock.
Their apparent readiness to allow the State, through the RH bill, to dictate the intimate details of their marital lives, without regard to the moral law and the Constitution, is an attack on the basic rights and freedom of all men and women, and of all religions, beginning with their own.
CATHOLICS AND NON-CATHOLICS SHOULD REJECT RH
Regardless of their conflicting beliefs on contraception and sterilization, Catholics, non-Catholics and even non-believers alike should work together against such State imposition, if they truly value their inviolable dignity as human persons.
As Catholics we have a right and a duty to make sure that in this predominantly Catholic country the government should not stamp the boot of Nazi or communist totalitarianism upon the face of the Filipino family, whatever its religion. While there is no Catholic vote in a predominantly Catholic country, we should exert every effort to put in office the best qualified Catholic candidates, whenever that is possible. And we should exert greater effort to make sure that no known anti-life and anti-family candidate should ever win again.
In the 2010 elections, we failed to wage an earnest national campaign to elect the best qualified pro-life and pro-family candidates. Some well-meaning individuals and groups even made the mistake of naively characterizing as “pro-life” certain double-dealing politicians who had no sustainable record of standing for the family and human life, and who turned out to be “anti-life” and “anti-family” as soon as they were recruited by the population controllers. We cannot afford to make that mistake again.
As we prepare for the next elections, we must go down to the grassroots and begin to organize a parish-based national movement to separate the goats from the sheep, the lackeys and hirelings of global population control from the true friends and servants of the Filipino people. That is the only way we could hope to break the iron grip of the global population controllers upon our government and our people.