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Friday, June 3, 2011

Dr. Jesus Estanislao's two questions on the RH bill

(This post was originally published on this blog in the early morning of June 2, 2011.)

UPDATE: A longer and more comprehensive version of this article entitled THE PUBLIC DISCUSSION ON THE RH BILL has been published on Dr. Estanislao's own website. 

Acknowledge differences
May 31, 2011, 3:24am

MANILA, Philppines — In the ongoing debate on the RH bill, there are a few points that unite many of us who are actively participating in the debate.

Many of us agree on the imperative to promote the long-term sustainable development of our country and of our people. More than a few would agree that people – population, and the size of our population as well as the education we invest in them – are important for long-term development.

However, we should all have our eyes and ears wide open: we should also acknowledge that there are serious differences between us.

Some would insist that people are great assets for the economy, particularly over the long haul. For them, the more people there are, for as long as we bring them up properly and equip them with skills and knowledge, the better we will all be as a country.

But there are others who insist that present-day realities – with a lot of hungry and destitute people – demand that we cut our population growth rate, which should move up at a rate consistent with our ability to feed, educate – and provide for health services to – our people.

Two questions well worth raising in this regard: first, is curbing population growth rate the major and most important factor to consider as we assess our current and prospective capacity to provide for our people? Many amongst us would admit that it is a factor, but that there are many more important and critical factors to focus on.

And the second question relates to the level at which the decision regarding population growth and having more children should be made. More than a few would argue that this is a decision best left to the couples themselves, taking into account their responsibility to each other, their duties towards the children they bring to this world, and their social responsibility towards our entire national community.

Moreover, these decisions, on the part of the couples themselves, should be under the proper guidance of doctors and pastors. Many, however, are taking the position that this decision should be made at the policy level, on the part of the national government itself. It is for this reason, in their view, that there is a need for an RH bill.

The differences amongst us become much wider when we get the government involved in making decisions, which in the view of many citizens runs counter to the fundamental social principle of subsidiarity.

The proponents of the RH bill would get the government involved in setting policy preferences on the number of children couples may have (the preferred formula is to “stop at two,” which Singapore followed a couple of decades ago, and which Singapore is now finding out is a bad idea for the sustainability of its long-term growth); in promoting sex education, without due deference to parents, who have the primary responsibility for undertaking this in relation to their own children; in facilitating access to artificial means and methods of preventing pregnancy, even as scientists continue to debate their propriety and healthfulness in view of their contraceptive and abortifacient effects; and in using tax money to promote the widespread use of such artificial means.

Should the government be involved actively in all these? There are many of us who say “no” and this “no” becomes emphatic and conscientious because it violates the principle of subsidiarity. Moreover, it promotes a mind-set that easily undermines the value of life and the dignity of human beings, particularly those most vulnerable and defenseless since they have just been conceived in a maternal womb.

Finally, despite the Constitutional bar set against abortion, many of the artificial contraceptive means and methods, whose facilitation the RH bill envisions, have effects similar to abortion. Here, not only the Constitutional provision on abortion, but also the moral and ethical dimension comes into play. Thus, the conscientious objection on the part of many!

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