The Senate President of the Philippines, Juan Ponce Enrile has regressed to one of the earliest arguments against the Reproductive Health Bill currently being debated in Senate and Congress, by saying, “You will control the size of our population because the bill itself is a population control bill.” The Senate Majority Leader, Tito Sotto has stated that the RH Bill is a foreign-funded population bill.
I will not speculate on whether this is a product of these senators spending too much time with some Catholic Bishops, whose logical deductions leave much to be desired. Apart from wanting to ask Sotto and Enrile if they have actually read the RH Bill, I do have a few questions.
Who does Enrile think is making the decisions that affect population size? Individuals, or government officials? Individual citizens can only control their own family size, so I assume that Enrile is worrying about the government controlling the country’s population. Where Enrile’s logic fails him, is that at this very moment, the government actually is controlling the population of the Philippines.
That’s right, without government subsidized reproductive health services only the middle and upper classes being able to afford contraceptives. This is, in fact, a form of population control. At the moment, the distribution of contraceptives by local government units (LGUs) is entirely at the whim of local politicians.
Withholding family planning and reproductive health services is certainly a form of population control. When Atienza, Socrates and other ultra-conservative politicians ban family planning they are controlling the population. They are the dictators of family size, by enforcing their beliefs that Filipino families don’t have enough children on every poor family that cannot afford to buy their own contraceptives. This subtlety however, is lost on them.
When I read the RH Bill I see the antithesis of population control. The bill takes the control away from government officials and places it firmly in the hands of couples. It gives them information and access to whatever family planning method they choose, if they choose a method. Couples and individuals will continue to have the right not to choose to use any methods if they do not want to. Does Enrile actually think the government will have a Family Planning Secret Police that will burst into bedrooms and demand to see pill packs and condoms?
Family planning is a choice. It should be every Filipino’s choice.
And that is why Senators Sotto, Enrile and the CBCP are afraid of the bill. In Sotto’s words, “… you are removing the freedom of choice of the mayor and the governor and the next president.”
Enrile doesn’t actually think population control is bad, he just thinks that limiting population growth is bad. The question is, whose decision should it be to choose the number of children a family has? His? Sotto’s? Or the parents that will raise, clothe, shelter, feed, and ultimately have responsibility over the children they have?