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Friday, June 19, 2009

Reckless and Irresponsible

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:18:00 08/16/2008

Reckless and irresponsible

By Jo Imbong
REP. EDCEL LAGMAN, THE PRINCIPAL AUTHOR OF THE proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008 asserts, among others, that the bill is neither antilife nor antifamily, that contraceptives are not life-threatening and that the bill does not impose a two-child policy.
Prolife? To value human life is to respect and protect life in all its seasons. “Human life begins at fertilization.” (Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. IV, Sept. 18, 1986, pp. 761, 801) hence, “the State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” (Constitution, Article II, Section 12). Lagman said in a House hearing that the bill would protect human life “from implantation.”
By that token, the zygote not yet in the mother’s womb is not protected. Pills and the IUD hinder implantation of the embryo in the uterus, thereby precipitating the embryo’s destruction. That is abortion. And yet, “every child ... needs appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).
Not life-threatening? Records are rife of perforation of the uterus and serious pelvic infections in women with IUDs that public midwives have refused to extract. The Mayo Foundation found that oral contraceptives are associated with an increase risk of breast cancer. DepoProvera increases a woman’s risk for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Oral contraceptives containing cyproterone increase risk of deep venous blood clots.
Levonorgestrel is banned in this country as the Bureau of Food and Drugs found it to be abortifacient. Life-threatening ectopic pregnancies occur in mothers long after undergoing tubal ligation, particularly those sterilized before age 30.
Contraceptives as essential medicines? Contraceptives do not treat any medical condition. Fertility is not a disease. It attests to health! The bill targets “the poor, needy and marginalized.” This is most unkind to them whose real needs are jobs, skills, education, lucrative opportunities, nutrition, and essential medicines for anemia, tuberculosis, infections and childhood diseases.
Remember, every citizen has the right to health (Art. II, Sec.15), hence, the State has a duty to protect the citizens against dangerous substances (Constitution, Art. XVI, Sec.9), and protect women in their maternal function (Art. XIII,Sec. 14).
Family friendly? The “encouragement” to have two children is manipulation both brazen and subtle. It can set the stage for a stronger application of the recommendation through legislative amendments. Spouses have a basic, original, intrinsic and inviolable right “to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood” (Art. XV, Sec. 3 [1]). This includes their right to progeny.
The bill mocks parents with fine and imprisonment in refusing to expose their children to mandatory “age-appropriate” reproductive health education starting Grade 5 outside the loving confines of home and family.
Vulnerable and malleable, our children will be taught “adolescent reproductive health” and “the full range of information on family planning methods, services and facilities” for six years. This is child abuse of the highest order. And yet, “every child has the right to be brought up in an atmosphere of morality and rectitude for the enrichment and strengthening of his character.” (Child and Youth Welfare Code)
The ... care and nurtur[ance] of the child reside first in the parents (Article II, Sec. 12, Constitution), whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. (Brantley v. Surles, 718 F. 2d. 1354,1358-59) The State did not create the family, and “the child is not a creature of the State.” (Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, 268, U.S. 510, 535.) That is the law of nature, and no human institution has authority to amend it.
Quality of life? The bill wants to “uplift the quality of life of the people.” Population control started in 1976 “to increase the share of each Filipino in the fruits of economic progress.” In other words -- to eliminate poverty. Has it?
The General Appropriations Act of 2008 earmarks an enormous amount for “family planning and reproductive health services,” including contraceptives. For the Department of Health it is P3.19 billion; for Popcom -- P386.5 million, quite apart from funds for other agencies of government and local government units for the same programs. Add $2.4 million from the United Nations Population Fund for population and development and reproductive health for 2008, plus $2.2 million for 2009.
Today’s average family has three children compared with seven in the ’70s. But the billions of pesos spent have not reduced poverty or benefited the poor.
If Congress passes this bill, it wagers the future of the country. Citizens have a right to resist misplaced and irresponsible exercise of authority because the good of the people is the supreme law. Salus populi est suprema lex.
The path of irresponsible legislation is a dreadful path: If an act is made legal, it will be perceived as moral. If an act is perceived as moral, it will become a norm. If it is observed by all as a norm, then it is too late. By then, you will have changed the culture. That is not simply reckless. It is the ultimate breach of public trust.
(Jo Imbong, a lawyer, is the executive secretary of the Legal office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and consultant to the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life.)

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