Monday, September 5, 2011
Promoting a contraceptive culture
by Hans Marasigan, I Oppose the RH Bill Facebook page member.
This controversial bill has been a subject of many debates for almost a year. It created several instances of fraction in different religious or secular sectors of our society. Some would even end mocking each other, using offensive alias as their counter argument or protest to those parties that have an opposing views from them, and sad to say, these do not excuse Catholic Christians. At some point, both opposing parties have been showing creativity to assert their dispute in a convincing manner, even to the point of spreading lies and controversy that might affect the reputation of the other. This kind of tactic is very common in Philippine political set up, to gain support one has to destroy the credibility of the opposing party, which is not the proper way of discussing things as delicate as this propose bill. Despite some differences on view regarding the said issue, one has to act in norms of civility.
I will divide my writings into two parts, the legality and morality issues concerning the bill. The controversial bill raised many good points on how to answer and give solutions to some of the current issues that our country is facing, especially maternal and clinical services for poor mothers and access to education. However, there are provisions in the bill that are questionable and subjected to further revisions. After listening to some of the arguments presented by the proponents of the bill, I was able to distinguish some of the important points often times exploited against the Catholic Church that needs clarification.
The Issue on legality of the bill
One of the most commonly mistaken used arguments from the advocates is this, we are proposing the Rh bill and seeking for its approval, because we want to give each couples different options and access to family planning, and give them the freedom to choose what they think is helpful for them in establishing their desired number of siblings, according to the personal dictate of their conscience, and not coerce by any institutions or religious sectors. I had a chance to conversed with my former college professor, whom I revered most. Our conversation took seriously and became an exchange of ideas until I asked him about his stand on the said bill. He gave me a different perspective on the issue that I never heard before to any law makers, whether pro or anti, not even to the bishops of the Catholic Church. He said, the contents of the Rh Bill is a question of conscience, one cannot legislate or enact any law which is directly related to conscience. It should be on the discretion of each couples, so they should pass it as a policy not a law. The moment the bill enacted as a law it becomes mandatory for each couples to follow some of the provisions of the bill, and its no longer according to the dictate of their conscience or any other institutions, except the government. Base on their arguments given above it’s more appropriate to consider it as a policy, since they are talking about personal predilection. There should be a clear distinction between law and policy, which the politicians and even the president himself, failed to explain properly, whether they done it deliberately or not.
The issues on morality of the bill
The topic on morality regarding the bill will not dwells so much about abortion or some contraceptives that are abortifacients in nature, or over population as one of the main causes of poverty in the country. Since those aspects are already answered many times by those groups advocating pro life and anti corruption movements, so it’s quite superfluous to include it all over again. Instead, it will just answer and clarify issues related to Catholic stand on morality and natural family planning as one of the main issues on Rh Bill, contrary to its teachings, which often times criticize because of lack of understanding or false notion from its critics. Another aspect that is commonly misinterpreted by the advocates of the said bill is, according to them the Catholic Church does not understand that using contraceptives do not constitute abortion, therefore it’s not immoral, why? According to their argument, the term itself “contraceptive” as the literal translation emphasizes, which means, “against conception or no conception” they further explain that the whole process block the sperm cells from men’s genetalia, in order to prevent the possible meeting with the egg cells into the fallopian tube of the women that might result to the transportation of the combine sperm and eggs into the ovary and uterus, that eventually might cause fertilization. The artificial means applied on both male and female, although the example and explanation that the author used is the masculine method of contraception. For them since the sperm and egg cells did not meet, no fertilization happened, therefore, no abortion.
From that perspective the pro Rh bill is correct and the church recognizes that argument from them, but what makes it objectionable is the fact that they ignored the holistic and responsible mentality in dealing with sexuality, in other perspective the church is against contraception not because it constitutes abortion, as what they are wrongly accused of by the advocates of the bill, but rather it promotes a culture that breaks the totality of human sexuality. Base on their contention they are trying to eradicate some of the important aspects of it and focus only in sexual act as a mere object of pleasure.
In Catholic moral theology, human sexuality is one of the most discussed subject matters since its part of human nature and creation, and it has the broadest sense of meaning and expressions. Lengthy of discourses were written since the time of the Church fathers until the present magisterium of the modern popes, the Catholic Church teachings on sexuality is rooted from three major sources; the natural law, sacred scriptures, and sacred traditions.
Human sexuality is sacred in nature and permissible for couples inside the bond of marriage, this is an act from where the partners can elevate their expressions of love in a human form activity, joining them as one with mutual and total self giving. Human sexual act has two major purposes; pro creative and unitive.
Contraception as a preventive measure breaks the two fundamental elements of sexual act, first, refusal to the possibility of new life. Secondly, the unitive, because the couples deprived its purpose of giving oneself totally to each other, a conjugal expression of love and respect to the women’s body. The use of contraception degrades the dignity and personification of women to a mere object of pleasure, a commodity.
The church does not deny or set aside the reality that sex is a gift from God to married couples, and the benefit of pleasure in engaging into sexual act is part of it. That’s why the church supports natural family planning method for those couples who want to enjoy the benefit of sex without producing new life. In church teaching, God sets a natural infertility cycle or a rhythm to the women’s body so that a couple inside the bond of marriage can perform sexual act, without a chance of getting pregnant. (In layman’s term state of infertility) The only thing that the male partners should have to consider is the awareness of the menstrual cycle of their wives, and to make sure that they are in the state of infertility before performing the sexual act.
The pro Rh bill would argue that it do not apply to every women in general, since there are females that has irregularity in menstrual cycle and the chance of getting pregnant is highly possible when the couple engages in sexual act, since they cannot predict the exact infertility state. So if that’s the case, even married couples will deprived themselves with the benefit of having sex, if the women partners have menstrual irregularities and afraid to produce new life. Since the Catholic Church only recognizes natural family planning as morally acceptable. To some extent, their argument is valid. However, they disregarded the fact that it’s a natural disorder or deliberately cause by unhealthy lifestyle, on that case the element of gratification as a sole purpose for sexual activity will be removed due to its given condition to be morally accepted. The call for the virtue of abstinence or sexual discipline is the church given answer. Which of course, not acceptable for some.
I even heard some pastors of other religions favoring the bill would argue, that the pro creative aspect in sexual act is not always applicable and fundamental, since when the women reach the stage of menopausal period the procreative aspect is no longer part of the holistic and responsible sexuality that the Catholic Church is promoting. Again, they are correct in the earlier part of their argument, but the latter is questionable, why? Yes, the procreative aspect would cease when the women reach a certain age of menopausal period, but it should take into consideration that it stops as part of the natural cycle of their body, part of the natural rhythm in women’s different bodily stages of growth and decay set by God in nature, and it does not cease because it’s intentionally interfered or prevented by any artificial means, contrary to the bill that they are proposing, and that’s a different thing.
Human beings by nature are created rational, because of that rationality every actions that an individuals intended to perform are subjected to responsibility. That is far different from animals performing sexual act as a mere instinct, there should be a corresponding discipline and maturity in dealing with it. And that’s the essential aspect lacking in the propose bill.
PROMOTING CONTRACEPTIVE CULTURE
After giving those explanations regarding the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, even how convincing they are or not for some. Still, there are other sectors in society, like the relativist and liberal movements that would refused to accept those doctrines. The call in this advocacy is no longer a question of belief system, but rather cultural in nature. Advocates of the bill are promoting a culture of modernity, their dispute is that, Philippines remain a poor country because many of its citizens are still enslave by medieval thoughts and teachings of the church, and it is an impediment for progress. The point here is that, change in culture affects not only the mentality of the people, but it also degrades morality. A nation can advance in modernity in many ways by not sacrificing the moral norms of the people.
The contraceptive culture that they are promoting will only worsen the cases of unwanted pregnancies among teenagers, and more cases of pre marital and extramarital sex will happen. Why? Because contraceptive culture is a form of behavioral fixation towards sex, it is establishing a more confident and riskier attitude in exploring sex to different partners. Psychological studies showed that, once an individual starts having sex, it would be difficult for them to do abstinence, higher chances of getting engage into future sexual act whether it be with the same partner or exploring it to others is much possible, compare to the individuals who never been involve to any sexual activities, especially teens. Even if people are to educate to be responsible users of contraceptives, or even if advocates keep arguing that it will only be promoted to married couples and to the extent of educating the young people. Still, contraceptive culture promotes a potential phenomenon of risk compensation or behavioral disinhibition towards sex, as some psychologist would describe it, and most likely, subjected to many forms of human abuses.
I was able to read a research conducted by Dr. Edward C. Green, an American medical anthropologist, and also a research scientist at Harvard School of Public Health regarding the promotion of the use of condoms, he would argue, “if somebody is using a certain technology to reduce risk, a phenomenon actually occurs where people are willing to take on greater risk”