Make no mistake, the passing in Congress today of House Bill 4244 also known as the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill is foremost a triumph for long-overdue population control in the Philippines. The country’s enormous population and its continued unabated growth has long been considered the single biggest roadblock to prosperity in this impoverished nation. Indeed, the whole point of the RH Bill is population control. Let’s not lose the plot and be enamored to the euphemisms of melodramatic activists who pitch the idea that this is really all about “reproductive health”. That is, of course, a nice to have. But the real deal here is population control.
Look to the case of Iran where the initiative to implement a national family planning program stayed true to its spirit. After the overthrow of the secular government by Islamists in 1979, Iran’s new spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini saw a large population and continued procreation to further increase its size as a means to meet his goals of building an “Islamic generation” and breed “soldiers for Islam”. The results were drammatic. By 1988, Iran’s population was 55 million and growing at over 3 percent annually. By then too, Iran’s economy was faltering and overpopulation was starting to be seen as a roadblock to national development. Indeed, it was Khomeini himself who eventually went on to re-open the issue of birth control in 1989. Rather than shroud the program in sugarcoated words, Khomeini kept it real…
Receptive to the nation’s problems, Ayatollah Khomeini reopened dialogue on the subject of birth control. By December 1989, Iran had revived its national family planning program.
Its principal goals encourage women to wait three to four years between pregnancies, discourage childbearing for women younger than 18 or older than 35 ”” and limit family size to three children.
In May 1993, the Iranian government passed a national family planning law that effectively encouraged couples to have fewer children — by restricting maternity leave benefits after three children.
[Photo courtesy Sulekha.com.]
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What is likely to go down as a notable milestone in Philippine history is the astounding failure of the powerful Philippine Roman Catholic Church to thwart the passage of the RH Bill. Unfortunately, the clergy is not about to lose gracefully. It seems the irony in what the country’s men in robes have to say about this recent triumph over the forces of primitivism is lost in vacuous minds as usual…
Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes warned that the government is slowly becoming a dictatorship for meddling in the affairs of the legislative branch, which paved the way for the third-reading approval.
“This is a very sad day. Malacanang pressured our congressmen to vote Yes,” Reyes told reporters in an interview following the 133-79 vote of the House of Representatives that moved the bill a step closer to becoming a law.
…conveniently forgetting how the Church itself cajoled, threatened, and pressured legislators into voting against the Bill. Indeed the Philippine Catholic Church has long enjoyed an iron-fisted rule over the hearts and minds of Filipinos who form a country that remains one of the last bastions of Church king-making power. Filipino Politicians, as they tend to be, have always been reluctant to go up against an institution such as the Church which, along with mass media, enjoys a direct line into the Filipino mind. But the disjoint between what the Church prescribed and what the Catholic community practiced and wanted of their politicians during the fight to get HB 4244 passed in Congress is unprecedented. Politicians found themselves for the first time faced with public opinion on a matter of “morality” that is not necessarily in sync with the morality preached by their Church.
The passing of the RH Bill in Philippine Congress could be a milestone — the beginning of the end of the Roman Catholic Church’s long and inappropriate stranglehold on Philippine politics and governance. Will Filipinos, having already seen how unreasonable their Church had become on a matter so important to their future prosperity, continue to trust the political “recommendations” of their men-in-robes? Or will the Filipino learn the key lesson that comes out of this RH Bill circus — that the Church, while well within its scope-of-work to guide its flock on matters of spirituality, has no business prescribing positions to take on matters that are clearly between Citizen Filipino and the State? That remains to be seen, but things at the moment look promising for our aspirations to become a modern secular society befitting 21st Century human civilisation.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.