Thursday, June 16, 2011
The spirit of the RH bill
Originally posted by Mark Lian on his Facebook page. Reposted on this blog with permission.
RH Bill and Backwardness?
Reproductive Health Bill, Philippines (RHBP)
I only would like to share two points regarding the Reproductive Health Bill: first, a way of understanding the bill; second, what for me is the spirit behind the bill.
Way of Understanding
Regarding the first, in judging a certain way of thinking which has been expressed in a system or at least a body of statements (the bill for example), it is well to always keep in mind three things: (1) what are the deep aspirations and sentiments that gave rise to the said body of statements; (2) what the statements are, in fact, trying to say or assert; (3) what are or may be the implications or effects that it gives or may give rise to.
On Sentiments— man do not will evil as evil, we always will something of a good (an ontological good) even when we act badly (a moral evil). For example, when a man steals he does not will the act of stealing per se as an end, what he wills is the acquisition of the good stolen. May I not be misinterpreted here; stealing is still a moral evil even if it aims for something ontologically good. The reason for this is that moral evil is evil not because man wills an ontological good nor that he wills evil per se but because in his willing he chooses not to consider the rule of the ordering of goods needed for man to be truly human.
Why is the foregoing consideration important regarding the subject of our discussion?
The body of assertions may come from good sentiments and aspirations, which are then expressed in an explicit general intention which is in fact also good. However, it is possible that when this explicit general intention is particularized-- I mean that it already has to consider the relation of concrete means to a concrete end—the choice of means might not be in conformity with the right ordering of goods needed for man to be truly human, and here comes the possibility of moral evil. In a body of assertions, one must distinguish the general intention from the choice of means, a choice which may be an evidence of a good or bad particular intention. The distinction is necessary because a good intention does not always produce a good choice of means although a good choice of means, if it is authentic, always comes from a good intention. Clearly, the general intention of the bill is the good of man, but the question remains whether this intention is consistent all throughout its choice of means. This question is paramount since “the end does not justify the means”.
On the Statements themselves-- This leads us to the statements themselves. What in fact are they trying to say? The spirit behind the body of statements cannot be grasped simply by the expressed intention of the author. What is needed is a discernment of the internal logic of the statements themselves. This internal logic is indeed the spirit behind the body of statements. Now, what is most important in judging the body of statements is this internal logic and not the expressed intentions of the author. The reason is that it is the former that would allow us to discern the over-all truthfulness of the body of statements over and above the sincerity of the author’s intentions. Moreover, though secondarily, it is the internal logic that would ramify in the reader’s thinking and actions. Thus it is possible that an internal logic of a certain body of statements may run counter, wittingly or unwittingly, with the expressed intentions of the author. We have talked earlier about the “choice of means”; here we must say that this ‘choice of means’ constitute the matter of the internal logic of the body of statements. The question now is whether the good intentions of the author is truly realized in and is sustained by the internal logic of the body of statements.
On the effects— The effects of statements can be projected from the internal logic and not from the intentions of the author. If the internal logic is disorderly from the point of view of theory and practicability the effects would be disorder, and if good then the effect would be good. Again, I must add immediately that from the point of view of the necessary connection between cause and effect, a good cause is determined to a good effect; but since in the concrete world there is a confluence and a crisscrossing of causes (both bad and good), a good cause may not always lead to a good effect and a bad cause may not always lead to that bad effect. What is significant here is the fact that the internal logic is not the be-all and end-all of the controversy or of the issue; that one’s response to it is important in enhancing or diminishing its effects; and that factor beyond pure human efforts are also at play. The question now is: are we responsive and responsible enough?
Spirit of the Bill
Now, let us go to the second of my points that I would like to share. What, in fact, is the internal logic or spirit of the bill?
Let us go straight away to what, for me, is the most significant means presented by the bill to attain its end, significant from the point of view of understanding the presuppositions of the bill especially with regards to human dignity and human actions. What is this means or, let say for our present context, “provisions”? We are presented an option to choose between the natural method of birth control and the “modern” or artificial method, and these methods are to be made available by the State.
Three things can be observed here: (1) the options are presented as if they exist on the same line of value, that both options advance economics and health; (2) the options are presented as if they are a matter of individual personal choice only, that a woman can procure ligation even without the consent of the husband; (3) the options are presented as if the sexual act is simply a pleasurable act, that discipline is not absolutely necessary in it (since one may use contraceptives and thereby may not exercise continence) to make it a truly human act.
On the same line of value-- it seems to me that RHBP is trying to tell us that the artificial method is as effective a means as the natural method in advancing economic prosperity to this country and good health to its citizens. Three essential points should be made here: first, while it is true that both methods have effects to economics and health, economics and health are not the only areas of human life that can be affected by these methods unless we are prepared to say that human beings are reducible to being only material bodies with more complex desires than the brutes; what I mean here is that the bill stands on a materialist conception of man. Second point, if indeed man is more than an economic living being, meaning that there exists in him ‘spirituality’ that defines the humanness of his humanity, this humanness of his humanity must be the source and end of his activities, including sexual activities. Third point, if our activities do not have this humanness of our humanity as their source and end, then these activities-- in the final analysis-- destroy themselves along with their effects, their supposed to be ‘good’ effects.
What is needed is an integral vision of man that respects the hierarchy of values involve in human life. This integral vision is not only a vision for all human beings but also for all of what is a human being.
On Individual Personal Choice—We are being told that a method of birth control can be procured without spousal consent. Again, we are seeing here the same materialist interpretation of human relations, especially that of marriage. If ‘having children’ is a mutual and joint decision of the couple, why is ‘not having them’ an individual separate choice? This way of thinking is understandable from the point of view of the one who separates the conjugal act itself from its natural fecundity, who separates the conjugal act from human love, and human love from the person. What is missing here is the understanding that the profoundest, the deepest, and the highest dimension, the only dimension worthy of the person as a person is that of love, which is the giving of one’s self as a free gift to another self, a gift that calls for mutual self-giving as well as mutual acceptance.
On Discipline is not Absolutely Necessary—The one who separates procreation from the conjugal act, the conjugal act from human love, and human love from the exigency of personhood, is also the one who cannot understand the need for discipline in human love. Discipline, however, is necessary for self-control or self-mastery, without which one cannot hold himself and give himself to another person, one cannot love. Moreover, we cannot imagine a peaceful and orderly State with citizens who are unable to control themselves—a certain amount of virtue is necessary for a true society of persons.
The spirit of the bill, in my opinion, can be stated briefly this way: that man is only a material being who lives only for himself in the context of his uncontrollable passions.