Monday, May 23, 2011

Why the RH Bill is Unconstitutional

Its intentions are ideal but its interpretation and application may essentially lead to the exact substantive evils its proponents are attempting to address. It cannot retract from the mounds of adverse evidence, mostly consisting of studies and statistical data exacted both from foreign and local research institutes, which prove that the bill is self-defeating and would probably exacerbate the mischief it is supposed to prevent.

A discussion on the enumerated criticisms of those who oppose the bill would be in order. Thus, they argue:

(1) The bill is based on faulty premises since a study of Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets, found no correlation between population growth and poverty in first world countries. This research was later replicated in developing countries;

(2) The bill takes away limited government funds from treating many high priority medical and food needs and transfers them to fund harmful and deadly devices. The latest studies in scientific journals and organizations show that the ordinary birth control pill, and the IUD are abortifacient to fertilized eggs: they kill young human embryos, who as such are human beings equally worthy of respect;

(3) Leading secular social scientists like Nobel Prize winner, George Akerlof and US National Defense Consultant, Lionel Tiger, have found that contraceptives have deleterious social effects (abortion, adultery, female impoverishment, fatherless children, teenage pregnancies, and immorality).

(4) People's freedom to access contraceptives is not restricted by any opposing law, being available in family planning NGOs, stores, etc. The country is not a welfare state: taxpayer's money should not be used for personal practices that are harmful and immoral.

First, there has been no cogent finding that population growth and poverty rise in parallels. A contrary assertion has been a cornerstone argument by the bill’s proponents. They insist that population growth is the bane of developing countries. This theory was debunked by the opposition. In fact, Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets concludes that “no clear association appears to exist in the present sample of countries, or is likely to exist in other developed countries, between rates of growth of population and of product per capita" and “that there is insignificant empirical association between population growth rates and output per capita (economic growth). Rather, it is the rate at which technology grows and the ability of the population to employ these new technologies efficiently and widely that permit economic progress”.

Kuznets saw that the basic obstacles to economic growth arise from the limited capabilities of the institutions (political, social, legal, cultural, economic) to adjust. He argued instead that a more rapid population growth, if properly managed, will promote economic development through a positive impact on the society's state of knowledge. His findings have been confirmed by similar studies by the US National Research Council (1986), the UN Population Fund Consultative Meeting of Economists (1992), Eric Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann (2007), among others.

Furthermore, Julian Simon, a professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, compared several parallel countries in a study and asserts that the “birthrates were practically the same but [their] economic growth was entirely different due to different governance factors”. Indeed, no study has ever been presented by the bill’s proponents to argue that such correlation between the two factors exists. Lack thereof would lead to conjectures which have no applicable significance and would potentially imperil those who would be subject to the law because of its unsupported bases.

Second, it must be noted that Section 23 of the bill, which espouses its appropriations, mandates that “the current annual General Appropriations Act for reproductive health and family planning under the DOH and POPCOM together with ten percent (10%) of the Gender and Development (GAD) budgets of all government departments, agencies, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities funded in the annual General Appropriations Act in accordance with Republic Act No. 7192 (Women in Development and Nation-building Act) and Executive Order No. 273 (Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development 1995-2025) shall be allocated and utilized for the implementation of this Act. Such additional sums as may be necessary for the effective implementation of this Act shall be included in the subsequent years’ General Appropriations Acts”. It would indeed cost millions of taxpayers’ money to be able to set-up a nationwide campaign that presumably aims to aid the uniformed but is actually promoting sexual promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies and escalated abortion rates.

Thus, condoms are not wise investments. We have the lowest incidence of HIV cases after Bangladesh in the ADB report mentioned above, whereas Thailand, which has been regarded as the model in condom promotion, has the highest. European epidemiologist Dr. Jokin de Irala refers to “risk-compensation” as the reason for higher HIV-AIDS incidences when condoms are promoted. x x x Why spend millions to buy condoms when they are shown to increase incidences of STDs? A government-sponsored nationwide condom distribution will only fatten the pockets of condom manufacturers.

Moreover, experts agree that oral contraceptives are abortifacients, or are substances that cause pregnancy to end prematurely and cause an abortion. Thus, according to Walter L. Larimore and Joseph B. Stanford’s study on Post Fertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent, ‘the primary mechanism of oral contraceptives is to inhibit ovulation, but this mechanism is not always operative. When breakthrough ovulation occurs, then secondary mechanisms operate to prevent clinically recognized pregnancy. These secondary mechanisms may occur either before or after fertilization’. Ergo, [oral contraceptives] kill young human embryos, who as such are human beings equally worthy of respect, making the bill unconstitutional as it violates article 2, section 12 of the 1987 Constitution which provides that: “The State x x x shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”.

Furthermore, studies show that prolonged consumption of birth control pills is hazardous to one’s health. Thus, “the American Cancer Society warns that the risk of developing breast cancer increases after birth-control pills are used, and the increased risk persists for 10 years after they are stopped" and that “several studies warn against an increased risk of cardiovascular problems in women taking these new substances.” It thus runs counter to the avowed protection granted by the 1987 Constitution for the lives of women and children (Article 2, Section 12).

Third, it is argued that the profligate spread of contraceptives due to its increased availability may result to steep increases in abortion rates, fatherless children, teenage pregnancies, and immorality. Indeed, if such birth control devices are made available in several conspicuous areas, chances are those who are willing to exercise their sexual proclivities, especially young teenagers who are overly eager but are presumably devoid of any knowledge of the consequences of sexual intercourse, may indeed satiate such desires with impunity and minimal restraint. This increases the risk of unwanted pregnancies as sexual voracity is promoted by convenient access to contraceptive devices. It is admitted that these devices are not fool-proof as studies show that 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the United States are caused by defective contraception.

Abortion is preferably and commonly resorted to by young mothers with unplanned pregnancies. Whether the process be through a medical procedure or through oral intake of medication, it is admitted that any such process is geared towards the elimination of the embryo regardless of its stage. This fact is of significance because Article 2, Section of the 1987 Constitution provides that the life of the unborn is protected since conception. Conception is medically defined as the “union of the sperm and the ovum” and is “synonymous with fertilization”. It is also “the onset of pregnancy, marked by implantation of the blastocyst into the endometrium.” It is crystal clear that from that moment, such organism, regardless of development, acquires the fundamental right to life protected by the Constitution itself. It is therefore imperative that the bill be struck down because of the harmful domino effect it entails which remains to be unseen, or is deliberately neglected, by the bill’s proponents. It is also admitted that although the aforecited Section of the Constitution equally protects the life of the mother and the unborn, abortion may only be resorted to when it endangers the life of both the child and the mother. It cannot be invoked as an expedient method to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Finally, instead of allotting millions of public funds in the drive for mass distribution of contraceptive devices, the government has to channel limited funds to job creation and education. The latest report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) entitled Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010 notes that the “middle class has increased rapidly in size and purchasing power as strong economic growth in the past two decades has helped reduce poverty significantly and lift previously poor households into the middle class.” Two factors were reported to drive the creation and sustenance of a middle class: a) stable, secure, well-paid jobs with good benefits, and b) higher education. And so, why not create more bills that will strengthen these two factors instead of channeling our limited funds to contraception and sex education.

It is the State’s duty to order society by promoting the well-being of its citizens. Thus, it is a disservice to legislate what constitutes harm to its people. We pointed but a few of the studies showing the harmful effects of contraception to society, the family, the youth and women’s health. While it is true that the State cannot stop people from using contraception, since they may personally choose to expose themselves to its risks, it is not the State’s job to facilitate access to what is harmful. What the government should do is craft laws that prevent people from harming themselves or more positively phrased, help them develop themselves and society. We urge the legislators to dump the contentious and flawed Reproductive Health bill and to pass more bills strengthening the Filipino family, protecting its citizens against the risks of contraception, defending the scientific fact that conception begins at fertilization, providing essential medicines for the main causes of death, making quality education more accessible to Filipinos, and providing more jobs.


Resource inputs from Chiqui Lechago and Donna Flores

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