Wrote this back in 2005, re-posted it in 2008, and am publishing it again because the Reproductive Health bill is again dead.
* * * * *
19 March 2005
The problem with the debate over population control, especially concerning Edcel Lagman's reproductive health bill, is that either side will be arguing based on different premises. According to the bishops, who were challenged to a public debate, they would argue based on Scripture and Church doctrine while the bill's proponents would talk economics and practicality. Nothing would be settled.
I agree. I automatically skip over any supposed argument against family planning that starts to quote the Bible or includes the words "natural law." It's bunk for people like me who don't believe any of it. What I now find interesting are the arguments of Bernie Villegas (of Opus Dei) and some liberation theologists (imagine that) saying that there is no overpopulation and that the real problem is inequitable distribution of wealth. Poverty, they say, is not due to the lack of resources to be shared by all, it is because most of the resources are hoarded by the rich.
I believe them.
I see all these rich people (congressmen included) who drive around in gas-guzzling American SUVs and think that for every five kilometers they travel they're spending the equivalent of a simple meal for a poor household. I see people buying foreign-made signature clothes and imagine the number of people that money can clothe. I see ads for "The Children's Hour" and stop to consider the fact that what I earn in an hour is more than what some people earn in a day.
I also agree with them when they say that having many children is not a crime; that families should not come with restrictions or quotas; and that an aging population or the Chinese phenomenon of "little princes" is a cause for worry.
However, I still support family planning efforts (and the reproductive health bill) despite their arguments because I am a firm believer in defensive driving.
Defensive driving – taught in all driving schools, except the ones
where jeepney drivers learn – is not so much a technique as it is a philosophy. It's a way of driving that emphasizes safety and caution over speed and right of way. It's a philosophy that says "I don't really care if those other drivers are wrong, what's important is I get to where I'm going in one piece."
And most of the time it makes sense. It's stupid to assert one's right of way when an 18-wheeler truck with a driver on shabu comes barreling down the highway. Sure you'll win the lawsuit and claim insurance but your car, if not you and your passengers, will have already been totaled. While a green light does mean "go," it helps to slow down at an empty intersection just to see if some drunk driver or pedestrian is crossing.
The idea is to protect oneself first before asserting one's rights.
The bishops can complain all they want about inequity and general unfairness of a capitalist system but that doesn't help these poor folks with eight kids who live on less than 50 pesos a day. They can shout bloody revolution all they want (although somehow I don't think Villegas and his ilk would approve) but unless it really happens (which I seriously doubt, the CPP has been trying in vain for over 30 years), we'll be stuck with couples who can barely feed their large
The logic is simple. A janitor who lives on minimum wage can probably afford to have only two children (and even that is pushing it). One needs a higher monthly income in order to provide adequate (and this is key) support. Of course the guy can believe Bernie Villegas and the bishops and say that he has the right to have more kids and that he deserves a bigger salary because his employers are not sharing the wealth enough but in the end he still gets run over by the raging truck.
Right of way is irrelevant if it puts you in harm's way.
Access to family planning methods, both natural and artificial, coupled with proper education, will help people like my janitor make sure he only has the right number of children he can adequately support. The problem of inequitable distribution of wealth will still be present, just like drunk and reckless drivers, but at least people will stand a better chance of living more decent lives within their current incomes.