lemme tell you about reproductive health in the philippines – Argue – May 11

So okay I live in the Philippines and I just wanted to share the latest bullshit the Church (and others) have been pulling off around here.

Recently some politicians have decided to push something called the Reproductive Health Bill. You can see the full text here but basically, the bill promotes wider availability of contraceptives, and more importantly, proper sex education. Just to be clear, abortion is not promoted by the bill at all (still illegal here), though the bill does have provisions for post-abortion complications.

Me, I think the bill is a very good thing. The bulk of the population is comprised of poor people, mainly because the poor families have so many children. On a visit to some poor kids we were tutoring some time ago, I met at least two families of ten, both of whom lived in shanties. This is in part caused by a lack of sex education. I have no idea how many kids actually understand what goes on there. The other factor is that poor people don’t have access to contraceptives. The bill will classify contraceptives as essential medicine, which hopefully will make it easier for the masses to get a hold of condoms.

Problem with the Philippines is that because it’s predominantly Catholic, the Church has considerable influence, and they can easily rally people to whatever cause they support, or in this case, oppose. For the most part, though, nobody was paying much attention to the RH bill, until this guy Carlos Celdran came along.

Reacting to the Church’s strong anti-RH pronouncements, he decided it was a good idea to go to a Church and heckle a priest about the bill in the middle of a mass. So okay maybe he might have gone too far, but whatever the case, this thing kind of blew up. At this point, he was arrested for, as far as I can tell, violating a section of the Penal Code which punishes “offending the religious feelings.”

Following a campaign to get him out of jail, people became a lot more aware of the issues, and now I’m seeing a lot more about RH in the news and on the internet. Everyone seems to have gotten a lot more polarized since. The government–our president included–generally supports this bill, but there are exceptions. For instance, one town passed an ordinance that requires prescriptions in order to purchase any contraceptive, including condoms. I’m surprised I haven’t been hearing much about this lately, but that’s probably because the Church’s influence on the government and on the people is a far more pressing matter.

They’ve threatened to excommunicate the president, which is a big deal here for most people, and probably a PR nightmare for the one affected. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also threatening civil disobedience over it. Sure, maybe that wouldn’t fly in America, but as you can see the Church has thousands of people at its beck and call.

These people are all there to protest the Reproductive Health Bill. That’s a real rally from last month.

I have no doubt that the bishops would do it, too. Their heads have swelled since they rallied the people against dictator Ferdinand Marcos back in 1986, and now they fancy themselves the leaders of the Filipino people. Which is actually pretty much true in practice. Here is them comparing the fight against contraceptives and condoms to the actual Revolution that deposed a tyrant.

I try to tell myself that they’re not going to hold another revolution or anything, but sometimes it really seems like it’s a possibility. I mean, one anti-RH Mayor said that the reproductive health bill is worse than martial law. And to be honest, that’s one of the weaker remarks that people have made about it.

That’s a real, unironic, propaganda image someone made and posted around the internet. Sure, it wasn’t made by one of the priests, but since a Bishop declared the bill to be the work of Satan, then I think that image pretty much reflects their feelings.

And that’s just one in a long list of labels that they’ve attached to supporters of the reproductive health bill. We’re also terrorists, just like the Muslims that wrapped a giant symbolic condom around the World Trade Centers. We’re imperialists because we’re forcing contraceptives on women. We are a greater threat to life than earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear radiation, and before you ask, the answer is yes: the person who said this did say it following the Fukushima incident. And of course, we also have the requisite Godwin.

So what are the arguments made by the anti-RH crowd? You’ve probably heard most of them, but here’s a laundry list of the more common talking points:

This one, though, is my favorite one. According to this article from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, age-appropriate sex education is bad for children because of an age-inappropriate sex education session that they held. Basically, volunteer teachers went to a Saturday class and showed a bunch of TEN YEAR OLDS graphic photos of people afflicted with STDs, and told them that sex leads to it. “So this is a first-hand experience of yours that sex education [carried out in a school setting] is not good,” one of them said.

So that’s it in a nutshell, what we’re going through here. I’m pained that the Philippines even needs to HAVE a debate about sex education, condoms, and pills. I had to get it out somewhere because I really don’t want to get into long internet debates with Facebook friends where I’ll probably end up calling them retarded for their nonsense arguments, or where I can’t debate because they post long detailed studies (from pro-life organizations) that I’m not qualified to debunk.

I can’t fucking wait to see what happens when people start pushing for divorce (yes, there’s no such thing here) and gay marriage.