Emotions have always been running high at the mere mention of Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. Sister Pilar Verzosa of Pro-life Philipines cannot sleep the night before my scheduled interview with her. The words reproductive health mean unborn fetuses and wanton disregard for life for her.
Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) Executive Director Ramon San Pascual, on the other hand, was pensively looking outside his window the morning I interviewed him over the phone. He says he has been seeing women and children on the street battling for daily life and wanting to come out of abject poverty everyday.
Sister Pilar politely pointed to Pro-Life’s Education and Training Officer Egoy Descallar when I asked why they are against the RH Bill. Descallar pointed out how the United States has already made a blueprint for the Philippines’ “depopulation” program since 1974. He cites the US National Security Study Memorandum 200 signed by then President Henry Kissinger instructing the Central Intelligence Agency and poor governments to reduce the population through the intake and use of contraceptives.
Defending RH advocates’ position, San Pascual cites the 1994 Cairo Convention that says pregnant women have the right to quality health services to decrease maternal mortality rate. He explains the future of Filipinos cannot be dictated by any US president or by any international convention. It is “innate” for any person to have good and quality life which every government is tasked to give its citizens. Absence of information and indecision as to what kind of help to give robs anyone, every woman for that matter , of her right as to how big or small a family she wants to have.
Pro-Life’s Escallar likewise contends that population control is not the solution to the increasing poverty in the country. He explains the Philippines land area is big enough and has natural resources to sustain its growing population. Our main problem is unequal distribution of wealth, he continues.
This age-old problem of unequal distribution of wealth is a paradigm shared by Marxists and has been gnawing at every Filipino’s patience and sense of truth. This brings to mind how the Catholic Church during the Spanish times obligated Indios to bear many children to increase the native labor force that had built monumental churches and clear down forests to construct the physical aspect of a plaza such as a municipio, markets and roads.
While the Catholic Church prohibits abortion, Filipinos during the 17th century had the knowledge of herbal medicines and abortificient, a secret trade being continued up to this day and whom untrained herbolarios and back-alley practitioners have brought death to poor mothers who cannot avail of the government health services.
Accounts of early Filipinos admitting abortions abound in Father Ignacio Alcina’s three-volume book History of the Bisayan People. They reasoned out they can no longer feed everybody should another mouth be added to the growing number of the family.
PLCPD’s San Pascual clarifies the RH Bill teaches the Filipinos to have a sense of responsibility and lay claim on what kind of life they wish to have. It teaches the government, hopefully, to care for its people, as it will provide information and health services to its citizens. It likewise teaches husband and wives or couples to be responsible enough to give love and care to their offspring.
Approval of RH Bill is currently stalled in Congress as the debate between the pro-choice and pro-life advocates rage on.
Meanwhile, women who belong to the lower strata of the Philippine society continue to bear unwanted pregnancies and those who failed to seek professional help of medical practitioners die a slow, agonizing death day by day.