There’s The Rub

By: Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
5:45 am | Thursday, April 28th, 2011

OVER THE past several weeks, I’ve heard these arguments against the RH bill. None of them finds its mark.

The first is that the RH bill won’t solve poverty.

Of course it won’t. Not by itself anyway. What bill or measure will solve poverty? Not land reform, not environmental protection, not government subsidy for food production. Not by themselves anyway. That is not an excuse to drop land reform, protecting the environment, and giving farmers enough to live on. Taken singly, they can, and do, help to push back poverty. Taken collectively, they can, and do, help mightily to push back poverty.

The same is true of the RH bill. Taken singly, it can, and will, help to push back poverty. Taken along with other things, it can, and will, help mightily to push back poverty.

Variations on the theme include: One, what matters is not the size of the population but the distribution of wealth. Two, limiting the size of the population is counterproductive because a country’s real wealth is its people.

Well, China is one country that has redistributed its wealth more resolutely than others, but it still feels the need to limit its population. For good reason: Limiting population and redistributing wealth are not opposed. They go together. There’s just no way even a well-intentioned government can feed a runaway population, never mind distribute wealth. China is the second richest country in the world after the US, but it still maintains—arguably draconian—a policy of one couple, one child. RH is nowhere near that.

As to the people being a country’s wealth, yes and no. Depends on the quantity and quality of the people. This is a case where more is less. You have a teeming mass of uneducated people, you don’t have an asset, you have a liability. You don’t have inducement to creativity, you have an invitation to criminality. While at this, the people who say this should stay at least a day in Payatas or a squatter area anywhere in Metro Manila so they can have an insight into the meaning of wealth and poverty.
The second is that contraception kills, producing a host of unborn children.

That one really takes the cake. RH is not abortion. President Benigno Aquino III has been absolutely clear on that. Edcel Lagman has been absolutely clear on that. The supporters of RH have been absolutely clear on that.

Using a condom no more produces an unborn child than sleeping produces an unborn masterpiece. An unborn child does not exist. It is no more real than an unborn thought, an unborn romance, an unborn heroism. You want to light a candle on the grave of the child that “died” from contraception, feel free to do so. But don’t include others in your lunacy.

You want to have an idea of life and death, again go visit the teeming mass huddled inside cardboard boxes that pass for shelter beside the mountains of trash and jutting over dead creeks and rivers. And see what that does to very real, very tangible, very born children.

The third is that contraception is ineffective anyway. It’s just using taxpayers’ money for something that doesn’t really bring down the population.

Well, land reform hasn’t worked famously either, but that’s no reason to throw it away. Economic planning hasn’t worked famously either, but that is no reason to throw it away. Even marriage hasn’t worked famously either, but that’s no reason to throw it away—although some will want to make a case for it.

I don’t know that contraception drives haven’t worked in most parts of the world. I do know they have met with all sorts of problems in societies like ours, not least the opposition of religious fundamentalists. That is quite apart from bureaucratic bumbling, or corruption.

If so, then the problem is not the conception, it is the implementation. The solution is not for government to forget the campaign, it is for government to push it more vigorously. The solution is not for government to spend less for it, it is to make every peso count.

The RH bill cannot guarantee that the population will decrease dramatically anytime soon. That is so for reasons that go beyond the opposition of the Catholic Church or bureaucratic baggage. That is so for reasons of culture. What the RH bill will really be up against is a culture that puts a premium on huge families.

Part of that owes to machismo. This is a macho culture, one given to men drinking themselves to a stupor, engaging in knife fights, and boasting not just about conquests but about how many children they’ve fathered. Not being able to accomplish the last leaves one open to barbs about having a broken pipe, or butas ang tambutso. Not surprisingly, the preferred gender of the children is male. Having a brood of females is pambayad ng utang, payment for the women one made to weep.

But the other part of it owes to the very poverty that runaway population spawns, which makes it a vicious cycle. The most popular, and insidious, form of gambling in this country is not jueteng, it is breeding. One has as many children as possible, hopefully male, to get one out of the rut of poverty. Maybe one of them can make it well enough to get the rest of the family by. A gamble that almost always makes one lose. A gamble that certainly always makes the country lose. That is the culture the Church abets by its position on the RH bill: By all means breed like rabbits. That is good not just in the eyes of man, or rabbits, but in the eyes of God.

Thankfully, that is not how most thinking Catholics in this country see things. For them President Aquino is no more a bad Catholic for pushing RH than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a good Catholic for pushing her luck. For them, being challenged by a priest to leave Mass if they believe in RH is for them to rise to that challenge. For them RH is just Rx.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Source: http://opinion.inquirer.net/4689/rx


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