Right now the Philippine Congress is debating on the issues confronting the Reproductive Health Bill sponsored by Albay representative Edcel Lagman. House Bill 5043, or “An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development which requires a mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health education; the inclusion of contraceptives in the purchase by state hospital of medicines and supplies; local governments’ employment of an adequate number of midwives or attendants for a ratio of one for every 150 deliveries per year; an emergency obstetric care maternal death review; and provision of mobile health care services.
The proposed law faces staunch opposition from Catholic Church groups and some 75 lawmakers in the House.
Significance of the Bill
For those who are in favor of the passing of the bill on Reproductive Health consider the light of the following constructs as the factors for its passage.
High fertility rate and rapid population growth can be detrimental to the socio-economic development of the country. There is a need to curve incidence of birth so as to peg the Philippine population to 86 million Filipinos for the sake of coping up with limited resources such as food, shelter, and basic social and health services.
It has been proven ever since on many studies that correlation between rapid population growth and poverty incidence do exist. But advocates of population management however caution that poverty is actually an offshoot of bad governance and weak economic growth. It is only exacerbated by high fertility rate and rapid population growth.
Incidentally rapid population growth is the result of individual decisions. Combining all these individual decisions may result in rapid population growth which in turns affects investment in physical and human capital. It is expected that the government needs to spend a lot of funds on public and social services. Right now we have a problem on limited classrooms in our school system, a manifestation of poorly managed growth in the population. The absence of a population policy in the Philippines adds to the negative economic and development growth as indicative of low tax base and expenditure issues.
The ultimate victims to overpopulation are the poor families who have more children than they can support. Data show in the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) that poverty incidence in families with nine or more children is pegged at 57 percent while it is only 10 percent to families with only one child.
Reasons for Killing the Bill
Contrary to the proponent and supporters of the bill, they want it “killed” the soonest so it will not prosper and be passed by Congress. Their negative view on the passage of the Bill is based on the following,
Life is sacred, human life and family values should be respected. There are those who believe that once the HB 812 Reproductive Health Care Act of 2003 once legislated will lead to anti-life laws such as euthanasia, abortion, two-child policy, and homosexuality. Catholics are against the artificial method of birth control such as use of pills and condoms because clergies found it to be “abortificient” or tantamount to abortion. There is a need to protect the life of the unborn. Their constructs saddle primarily on promoting the sanctity of life and safeguarding the moral grounds of human existence. They believe that for as long as the family is still strong and the fundamental value of life is protected, there is no reason that families can not recover from the degrading conditions of poverty.
Unfortunately those who want to kill the Bill do not consider overpopulation as a problem. They may recognize economic problems, unity, good politics as essential but not high birth rate and high fertility rate. The population density is not even critical the way they look at 200 to 270 people per square kilometer. They contend that the Malthusian fear has been settled long ago and that it does not hold water anymore. There is no need to fear about scarcity of goods and resources since the society is already aided by technology and economic investments to survive.
It is in the context of belief of those who oppose the bill that the best form of birth regulation in both the Scriptures and reason is self-discipline. So why spend P2 billion in taxpayers’ money to buy contraceptives when all the couple should do is to practice self-discipline and natural method of birth control? Better this amount would go to education, livelihood and basic social services.
Some Critical Points to Consider
Population grows in geometric proportion while resources increase arithmetically. Population needs grows higher as the population increases in a manner that resources could hardly meet these needs. Our economy is not growing fast enough to draw resources needed by a growing population.
Likewise, there is also a danger of adopting the Western paradigm on ‘zero population growth’ as this will only lead to the irreversible scenario of a graying population that shall eventually “depletes their respective economies in heavy state subsidies.”
But it’s a fact also that our environment degenerates as a result of overpopulation and overproduction of goods to meet and sustain provision for population needs.