Nothing sparks off controversy like sex. In the opening days of the election campaign of 2010, the topic was consciously dropped by the candidates, largely because survey revealed that it wasn't crucial to winning.
Lately, there has been a revisiting of the Reproductive Health Bill that in the 14th Congress, if you remember turned very poisonous. Ego turned against ego and amidst the shouting match, nothing prospered.
What's the state of the great debate so far?
The great debate
The Varsitarian for example, during the 14th Congress called the Lagman bill on reproductive health, "Stalinist."
"Lagman and his Marcosian ilk should realize that the Philippines has been there before—embracing birth control and social engineering based on the bull-headed Malthusian sham that population growth is a bane to economic development. They should realize that despite enshrining population control in the Martial Law constitution and implementing it ruthlessly, the Philippines did not prosper and develop one inch; instead, it became a basket case. Ergo, poverty and underdevelopment are not caused by population growth, but by corruption, mismanagement, and anti-poor policies."
The calling of names served no purpose save to cause everyone to anger on both camps. Anger and rage make us all think less.
A civil discussion appeared recently in "Population and Development," which Pro Pinoy Doy Santos wrote comparing the population charts of Thailand and the Philippines.
"One might argue that the direction of causality is not fully established. Higher income countries by and large tend to have lower birth rates not vice versa (although recently, that argument has itself collapsed, as I highlighted in this previous blog entry). At least in this instance, one can clearly see that the slowing of the population boom in Thailand preceded its economic expansion."
Archbishop Jesus Dosado of the Archdiocese of Ozamiz was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer recently that Catholics should oppose legislation that provide for the ingredients for killing life.
As a Catholic, I agree there is no debate on that matter. The propose law is pretty clear. It does not advocate abortion.
What I vehemently disapprove of is how the church has utterly failed to lead the discourse. To oppose is everyone's democratic right, certainly, but to oppose vehemently and not to propose positive response, to raise the quality of the discourse, to continue on prattling like Zealots is destructive to the Church and to spreading the principles of Jesus that it upholds.
As Gandhi put it, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians."
That, your Eminence of the Catholic Bishops Conference is why no one is listening. At least, no one with a brain.
What am I talking about?
The giving of the self to others has always been one of the central principles of the Church. It governs everything from the Church's stance on human dignity and human rights, to its unbreakable stance on abortion. In a word, we all know it, as "love."
The Church preaches that it was the love of a God, who so loved the world and his creation that he sent his only Son to die on the Cross for the sins of the world.
The late Pope John Paul II, in his international bestseller, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," wrote that "The Redeemer confirms human rights simply by restoring the fullness of the dignity man received when God created him in His image and likeness."
The late Pope simplified it by writing, "Man affirms himself most completely by giving of himself."
Put it another way, "When a man loves a woman, spend his very last dime trying to hold on to what he needs. He'd give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain… I give you everything I got trying to hold on to your precious love…"
The Church's anti-abortion stance
The Church's absolute stance on abortion is seen because of its unwavering belief in human rights, particularly the right to live.
It strongly believes that the legalization of the termination of pregnancy is a blanket authorization to kill. The Church believes that the moment life exist in a woman's womb, it already is a human being deserving of human dignity and human rights.
My friend Felicity recently wrote a piece, "The woman, the law and the (unborn) baby: the abortion ban in the Philippines." She talked about a recent report by the Center for Reproductive rights and how in the Philippines there is a Roe versus Wade type of environment. She wrote:
Our lawmakers should go back to the Constitution: “[the State] shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” We have the laws that protect the children. We also need laws that protect the women.
Felicity was right.
Roe versus Wade
As context for Filipinos, Roe versus Wade, was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of Abortion.
What was the decision of the US Supreme Court?
The Court upheld that a woman's decision to have an abortion is protected by her right to privacy. The court also mentioned the state has a legitimate interest on the matter because that right to privacy must be balanced between protecting the prenatal life in the mother's womb, and on the other hand, the mother's health.
In a Solomonic decision, the Court used the trimester of pregnancy to resolve the matter.
The Court determined that, the first trimester of a woman's pregnancy is the weakest point of regulating or restricting a woman's right to an abortion. In other words, if a woman chooses to abort her pregnancy durning this time, the state has no power to prevent so.
The Court determined that in the second quarter, an abortion poses a clear threat to maternal health. Thus it determined that the state may only regulate abortion that is reasonably related to maternal health.
Finally, The Court determined that in the third trimester, there is increased viability rates for the fetus and thus a greater interest in protecting prenatal life so the state could restrict or proscribe abortion when sound and appropriate medical judgment is given to preserve the life or health of the mother.
The Church's anti-abortion position
The Church takes issue on this because it takes all life as precious. As I mentioned the moment that fetus exists, the Church believes that's life. The Church firmly believes that a child conceived in its mother's womb is never an unjust aggressor and that it is a defenseless being that is want to be welcomed and help.
Now for the life of me, I can not think of no reason why the Church chooses not to be proactive in defense of life. What do I mean.
In his book, Crossing the threshold of hope, Pope John Paul II talked about how often the woman is the victim of male selfishness. No child born could be created without the father. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Quite often, the late Pope argued that when it comes to taking responsibility for that act of creation, the man blames the woman. That at the moment when women need a man's support--- she gets rejected and often she pays the price for it.
According to Pope John Paul II:
"The experiences of many counseling centers show that the woman does not want to suppress the life of the child she carries within her. If she is supported in this attitude, and if at the same time she is freed from the intimidation of those around her, then she is even capable of heroism."
Going back to the Reproductive Health Bill, the Church and many of its Zealot followers believe that it is an abortion bill because of its stance on artificial contraction. Sometimes forgetting that a condom is just a tool for preventing the sperm from meeting the egg. No fusion, means no life created.
Why focus on contraceptives?
Why focus on the act of sex? It is as natural as the sun. A man and a woman in love or in lust won't be stopped. Romeo loves Juliet and all the love stories in the entirety of human civilization is a testament to that fact.
It isn't that a man and a woman would engage in sex, it is about instilling for each person a sense of responsibility. It isn't about setting limits, it is about preparing a man and a woman for the responsibility of parenthood. It is about getting them to accept responsibility for their action.
It should be, sure go and have sex, use all the tools at your disposal for safe sex. When the woman becomes pregnant, it isn't her fault. It takes two to tango and the story now shifts to how do you raise that child. The story now becomes, these are my children and I want them to be better than I had. That baby needs to be fed, to be clothed, to go to school.
The story now becomes, "how do I step up?" The question becomes, "how do I become a gift to this woman, and this child?" It even goes back to the question of what human freedom is, which is by foregoing ourselves, we become free.
The culture of death isn't about abortion or artificial contraceptives, it is the culture that refuses to take responsibility. It is the culture of selfishness.
What the mistake is, the Church insists on defending life, but refuses to responsibly engage society. It isn't about population control, it isn't even about artificial contraceptives.
If the church is able to instill a sense of responsibility in its flock, why would it matter if a couple engages in sex using an artificial contraceptive?
At the moral heart of it, is that absence of courage and strength that when life is created, we step up for that new life. it is that absence of taking responsibility for one's actions before the sex act and after.
This whole notion that Filipinos seem to think, that a child is the pathway out of poverty is an ugly head. A child is seen as a tool. It is the parent's job to make sure that that child grows up better than they do, and not because they see that kid as a way out of poverty.
The Church by refusing to engage the state constructively, enters its own destructive path. It needs to propagate the idea the being responsible is a necessary condition for showing your love that indeed what you feel for her is authentic love.
When love is truly responsible
The late Pope John Paul II wrote the most eloquent of words most salient in this great debate, "when love is truly responsible, it is also truly free."
Be the Church that produced the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
This is the answer to the great debate on reproductive health and the best defense of life.
At the heart of the reproductive health bill is an intent to be pro woman. That's not wrong.
Felicity too is right with her position. What happens to the woman? Who stands up for her? So I would argue too that Roe Versus Wade is not wrong. It is Solomonic response to an untenable situation. It is the best that man's reasoning can do at an untenable situation when the balance is between the right of that child and the right of the mother.
Men will write imperfect laws because that is the limit of our human logic. The Church ought to join legislators to spearhead ways to reach out to women in need--- as those counseling centers proved that they do need a champion. The church must engage productively. Catholics are not your enemy, nor are women. Neither are the Buddhists nor the Muslims and every other religion in the world.
Beyond that what's clearly missing is the moral compass that can not be legislated. That is entirely the domain of the Church. This is the Church's responsibility and it is miserably failing at it. Teach us men that the real macho is having the courage to stand up for our women. When you have, then have Faith that your teachings will carry through. There will be fewer unwanted pregnancies, and better Filipinos then. You may even find a flock closer to Christ because of it.
Read the latest consolidated RH Bill HB 4244, and the authors' ammendments.- Editor, May 15, 2011.