is the subject of my Trade Tripper column this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
A funny thought entered my mind during the beatification of Pope John Paul II last Sunday: how many pro-RH advocates got excited or teary eyed while watching the same? The reason is because some Catholics should be reminded that Pope John Paul II gave us the Theology of the Body Lectures, which categorically proscribed the use of contraceptives. This says a lot about the pro-RH crowd’s consistency of thought (or lack of it). However, this article is not about the theological reasons against contraceptives but on some secular grounds why the RH Bill should not pass.
A fellow lawyer-columnist recently posted in his blog that President Aquino was right to support the RH Bill because he is president not only of Catholic Filipinos but of all Filipinos. The problem with this argument is that it misses the point about the function of the presidency and the nature of the RH Bill. While the statement that President Aquino is the president of all Filipinos is obvious enough, nevertheless, he still must execute laws that are for the general interest and do not constitute grave abuse of discretion, while at the same time remaining true to his conscience.
How the RH Bill could serve the common good is beyond me. There is simply no reason why the RH Bill should be passed. Economically, no direct correlation has been made between growth and population. Studies also do not support the contention that our population size is unsustainable. In fact, our birth rates are staying at quite manageable levels. And economists have pointed out that our demographics support domestic consumption, propel our service industry, and make our relatively young citizenry competitive vis-a-vis the ageing economies of Europe, Japan, and Singapore. Finally, studies have shown that poverty here is traceable not to population size (incidentally, not to corruption also) but to the continuing unequal distribution of wealth, with most of it held by our stupid elite.
Medically, the RH Bill introduces risks to female health, as international studies, among them by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, research arm of the World Health Organization) and medical journals (such as Lancet) already attributed (particularly to oral contraceptives) dangers such as cancer (specifically breast cancer). Former Health Secretary Cabral recently publicly acknowledged this. Research has also shown that countries (such as the US and Thailand) resorting to contraceptives (condoms in particular) have actually resulted in the increase of AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, or abortions. The reason is simple: condoms, which fail at least 5% of the time, give a false sense of security, encouraging the illusion of "safe sex."
The RH Bill also violates human rights, particularly as to non-discrimination regarding one’s religion. It was argued by a lawyer-columnist that taxes cannot be argued against the RH Bill as government funds have a general (i.e., non-religious) character. But this again misses the point: Catholics are knowingly being forced to pay for a measure (designed to provide subsidies for contraceptives reportedly costing Five Billion Pesos a year) that is against not their mere opinion but their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.
Note that Catholics cannot be rightly accused of imposing their beliefs on others, as contraceptives are legally and widely available. Instead, the RH Bill is being imposed on Catholics: can’t government come up with other programs to spend money on (such as medicines against cancer or heart disease, maternal care, education, fuel subsidies) that is less divisive and does not trample on their strongly held religious beliefs? This has to be emphasized: no religion is discriminated against by the use of tax money for other purposes should the RH Bill be rejected (as no religion is insane enough to require condom use, at most other religions merely condone it) but such would not be true the other way around.
Which also leads to this point: why should government and Catholic taxpayers be made to bear the burdens of a measure that is controversial, divisive, ineffective, and discriminates against a religion? As multinational pharmaceutical companies aren’t greedy, why not ask them to lower their prices? Why not have NGOs, instead of pouring all that money into lobbying and advertising campaigns, subsidize contraceptives themselves or, even better, donate the money to the poor?
Finally, same lawyer-columnist argues that the proscription against contraception is merely a Catholic thing. That is downright wrong. The reasons against contraception (aside from those above) are based on natural law. This law applies whether or not you are Catholic. Natural law, which seeks to protect human dignity, is the foundation of our Bill of Rights. President Aquino, coming from a school that has St. Thomas More as one of its patron saints, must know that his actions are to be guided by his conscience, with such conscience anchored on natural law. With all due respect, our lawyer-columnist friend should know this. More so, if he’s also a priest.