Monday, October 27, 2008
Seventy-six percent of Filipinos want family planning education in public schools, and 71 percent of the country’s Catholics favor the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill. Those are the results of a nationwide survey taken late last month by the Social Weather Stations. The results should allay concerns of lawmakers who are currently deliberating on House Bill 5043, or The Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood, and Population Development Act of 2008.
Apart from promoting programs that will benefit women’s reproductive health, HB 5043 aims to introduce sex education in public schools and provide access to artificial contraceptives. Sex education is already being taught in grade school in certain exclusive schools. Women with sufficient education and financial means are aware of both natural and artificial methods of birth control, and how the right choice could be good for their reproductive health.
That choice has been withheld from millions of poor women, who have been kept in the dark about birth control and have been denied access to artificial methods of contraception. That choice is what the reproductive health bill offers to the women who most need information on family planning.
Sex education will have to go hand in hand with lessons on responsible parenthood and the virtues of abstinence. Those lessons will be backed by the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is unlikely to budge on its concepts about the start of life and the evils of artificial contraception. In this predominantly Catholic country, the Church should have no trouble persuading its flock. But the persuasion should be done with all the choices clearly laid out, and with the faithful exercising free will — a bedrock of Christian faith.
As enshrined in the Constitution, no religion is supposed to dictate national policy. A line must be drawn between matters of state and the spirit. There would not even be a need for legislating the promotion of women’s reproductive health if the administration did not feel beholden to the Catholic Church for political survival. Previous administrations had pursued family planning programs in varying degrees. The results of non-commissioned surveys should encourage lawmakers to bring the issue of women’s reproductive health out of the Dark Ages.