Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RH Bill Buster (Part 1)

The talk on the controversial RH bill may have mellowed a bit but I am not letting up. I am ever determined to present the facts to everyone and let he who is in his right senses decide based on the FACTS, not on the myths.

Last night I was listening to the radio program 'Salitang Buhay' (Word Alive) by Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD, et.al. The program is aired every Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. over DZMM 630KHz. I had no idea about the topic to be discussed that night but it turned out to be on RH bill and with a very special guest (Dr. Ligaya Acosta). She was a former official of the Department of Health who spent 28 years in promoting artificial means of birth control and family planning. Guess what? She is now on the pro-life movement. Her personal testimony and interview was so powerful and interesting the radio program decided to invite her again next Sunday to speak more on the issue. Don't miss her out.

Misconceptions and Clarifications on Issues Related to Humanae Vitae
and the Reproductive "Health" Bill in Philippine Congress.

Rev. Fr. Gregory D. Gaston, STD

(This primer was written for Avenues, the Journal of San Carlos Seminary Graduate School of Theology. Copyright © 2008 by the author, a priest of the Archdiocese of Manila and Professor of the Graduate School of Theology of San Carlos Seminary in Makati City, Philippines. For related topics, please visit www.safe.ph.)

[Origin: M - misconception; C - clarification]

M#1: The world is overpopulated. Global population will soar to 11.9 billion by 2050.

C#1: "Yet this is not the full story. To the contrary, in fact. Across the globe, people are having fewer and fewer children. Fertility rates have dropped by half since 1972, from six children per woman to 2.9. And demographers say they're still falling, faster than ever. The world's population will continue to grow—from today's 6.4 billion to around 9 billion in 2050. But after that, it will go sharply into decline. Indeed, a phenomenon that we're destined to learn much more about—depopulation—has already begun in a number of countries. Welcome to the New Demography. It will change everything about our world, from the absolute size and power of nations to global economic growth to the quality of our lives." [Michael Meyer, "Birth Dearth," in Newsweek, September 27, 2004, p. 58. Since the 1970's, several demographers, economists, and other experts have been informing the public of these trends.]

M#2: Overpopulation is a scientific fact.

C#2: Not overpopulation, but population ageing and underpopulation, as seen in these sample article titles:

* European Pension Systems Set to Collapse. Low Fertility Blamed, in Friday Fax, May 4, 2000.
* Underpopulation, Not Overpopulation, the Real Global Problem, in Washington Post, March 18, 2001.
* Developed Nations Warned on Aging Crisis Time Bomb, in Manila Bulletin, Aug 30, 2001.
* Have Three Babies to Sustain the Population, in Daily Telegraph, Dec. 12, 2003.
* Asian Economies Desperate for Babies, in Daily News Express, Feb. 2, 2004.
* Have More Babies, Say the Tories, in Daily Mail, September 22, 2003: "Women should have more babies to stave off the looming crisis of an ageing population, the Tories will say today. The call to 'go forth and multiply' comes from work and pensions spokesman David Willetts, who wants couples to send birth rates soaring."
* In address to Estonians, President Calls on Citizens to Make More Babies, in New York Times, January 2, 2003: "Worried about a declining population, Estonia's president has urged the country's 1.4 million residents to make more babies. 'Let us remember that in just a couple of decades the number of Estonians seeing the New Year will be one-fifth less than today,' President Arnold Ruutel said in a speech broadcast live on national television Wednesday."

M#3: Our population growth rate of 2.04% is extremely high.

C#3: The CIA gives a much lower estimate of 1.728% (World Factbook Country Listing of 2008, available on the internet).

M#4: We should aim for a Zero Population Growth Rate.

C#4: Zero Population Growth Rate will make the Filipino race at first extremely old, and then rare, and finally extinct.

M#5: Filipino families have too many children.

C#5: "The UN Population Division figures indicate that it is not an exaggeration to say that as early as now the Philippine Total Fertility Rate [children per woman] is already dangerously low. Whereas in the early 1970's the average Filipina had six children, today she has around three, and in another 20 years, only two. Shortly after 2020, or just fifteen years from now, the Philippine TFR will sink below its replacement level of around 2.29." [Rev. Fr. Gregory D. Gaston, STD, World Population Collapse: Lessons for the Philippines, in Familia et Vita, vol. XII (2007) no. 2, pp. 84-113, paragraph no. 22. Henceforth referred to as WPC and paragraph number.]

M#6: Having two children should be the ideal family size.

From RH Bill SEC. 16. Ideal Family Size. – The State shall assist couples, parents and individuals to achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable development and encourage them to have two children as the ideal family size.

C#6: As of now the Philippines' total fertility rate, or children per woman, is projected to go below replacement (2.29 children per woman) by 2025. After that we will experience the population ageing and collapse taking place today in rich countries, and like them, we will also wish to pay parents to have more children--but unlike them, we will have no money to do so.

Pushing for only two children per family will make all this occur even earlier.

(Note that two children per family would give a total fertility rate of much lower than two, since women without children would have to be included in the computation of "children per woman," or total fertility rate.)

M#7: Intensified population control programs will slow down population growth, improve the economy soon, and thus solve poverty.

C#7: "The effect desired by population controllers, the slowing of population growth, will not immediately take place, due to population momentum, decreased mortality and longer lifespan. By the time population growth will have slowed down, the Total Fertility Rate will be way below the replacement level, and the average population age will be extremely high. In other words, the solution proposed to solve poverty, that is, population control programs, will just create more economic difficulties in the long run.

Nor may one say that we should limit population growth now, hope for rapid economic development, and finally try to solve whatever problem might come up in the future. It will simply be too late by then. Countries that were already rich 30 to 40 years ago when their TFR's started to decline, and are now ageing, encounter extreme difficulty in solving their economic problems today. Their efforts to encourage their citizens to produce more children have not yielded acceptable results after a decade. They depend on immigration to maintain their population growth. The Philippines is not a rich country today, and may or may not be rich within 50 years.

How will it support its ageing population? Will it also invite workers from other countries to replace its dwindling workforce? How will it attract immigrants if it has no jobs to offer to its people in the first place? Even if it becomes rich by then, it will have to face the same problems rich countries face now, and will have to tell the people to raise more children. We simply cannot afford to fall into the trap rich countries have fallen into 30-40 years ago, and from which they desperately try to escape today. Graphically speaking, we cannot afford to have in the future a population pyramid like theirs now, and then, like them today, wish to regain the population pyramid we have now." [WPC 26]

M#8: In ruling out population control as a solution to poverty, the Catholic Church teaches that the people should beget as many children as they can, following God's command, to "go forth and multiply."

C#8: "'Ruling out population control' simply means not encouraging people to have few children, which is entirely different from telling them to have all the children they can possibly produce. Parents should instead be guided and supported to attain the number of children they can generously and responsibly raise and educate. For some spouses, this means having one child or two; for others, five, ten, twelve, fifteen or even more. Neither the government nor the Catholic Church may compel, instruct, or encourage spouses to raise a specified number of children, as what population control programs definitely try to do, either through massive propaganda, or through deceptive and coercive policies. Rather, the government and the Catholic Church should form and guide the people to reflect on their actual circumstances, and to freely, generously and responsibly decide whether to have another child now, or not to have another child for the time being or indefinitely. This is one aspect of responsible parenthood, which the Catholic Church has always taught, and which takes into account both the real capacities of individual spouses and the national demographic situation." [WPC 27]

M#9: The Catholic Church has always recognized the existence of a "population problem," and the government's intervention in the decision-making of spouses as to the number of children they beget.

C#9: In recognizing that it is legitimate for the state "to intervene to orient the demography of the population," it immediately adds that, "This can be done by means of objective and respectful information, but certainly not by authoritarian, coercive measures. The state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children. In this area, it is not authorized to employ means contrary to the moral law" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2372).

Humanae Vitae (no. 2) describes some changes taking place in 1968. "In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships."

Note that while Humanae Vitae in this point observes that there is the rapid increase in world population, it merely expresses the fear of many, without owning that fear, that world population is going to grow faster than available resources. Today, forty years later, we can see for a fact that while population has grown, food production has grown even more.

"Since 1965 to 1994 the population of the world has nearly doubled, but food production has kept well ahead... United Nations figures show there has been a rise of over 30% in the period 1951-92 in food production per capita, that is to say the amount of food which would be available to each person in the world if it were divided equally. This has occurred in spite of the fact that Western farmers are paid millions of dollars a year to keep land out of production. If these European and American farmers were to produce to their capacity, food prices would collapse as a result of the glut (Population Facts and Myths, published on the Internet in 1994 by the National Association of Catholic Families in the UK). The problem then is not food production but proper distribution. Hence the solution should not be to reduce the number of consumers, but social justice.

In recent years, Church documents have focused greatly on the fall of fertility, which, "very significant in almost all parts of the world, is irrefutable and evident from the facts published by specialized organizations. It is, nonetheless, frequently disregarded (Pontifical Council for the Family, The Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends, March 25, 1994). Such fall in fertility is the real "population problem" today.

M#10: The Catholic Church is not concerned with the plight of the poor in the country.

C#10: The Catholic Church dedicates a huge part of its efforts at the service of the poor, helping the government: education, microlending, presence in slum areas and garbage, orphanages, feeding programs, social action projects, calamities, opposition to destructive mining and destructive logging, Pondo ng Pinoy, Caritas, environmental ecology concerns, human ecology, family empowerment.

Whenever the Church talks against graft and corruption, she does so also out of concern for the poor. Poverty will be very quickly eradicated if graft and corruption are eradicated, so that taxpayers' money will go to the poor (especially in terms of education, which is the long-term solution to poverty, and livelihood programs) and not to those rich who steal from the poor.

"Each time poverty is blamed on the 'population problem,' its real and root causes are conveniently tolerated or covered up: graft and corruption in the public and private sectors, burden of foreign debt servicing, and bad governance, resulting in failed development programs" (A Manifesto of Filipino Families on July 25, 2008).

To be continued...

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