Thursday, August 02, 2012

Finding a Middle Ground on the RH Bill Issue

In college, discourses in economics and social studies have introduced me to the precepts of population issues, more specifically on the principles of the Malthusian theory that as population grows, resources will become scarce.

It was a very simple equation; a see-saw extrapolation on what should be a very imperative issue on human development – or human misery, whichever, which way.

It was so rudimentary that I initially thought that I should have encountered Thomas Malthus when I was still in high school.

While Malthus had gained so much recognition for his almost inventive idea, yet portions of criticisms now point out to him being too apocalyptic in view. Especially now that in the Philippine society, voices has become so deeply dividedmost recently upon the very current issue of the Reproductive Health Bill.

It would be so interesting to note how Mr. Malthus can be so overbearing with his own theories that in 1798, in his published work An Essay on the Principle of Population, he wrote:

“The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”


Such strength in wordings and pronouncement seem so chilling and distressing.

But as truth to be told, as boldly intimidating his words was, there are great ounces of truth that lies behind them.

Indeed, that as population grows, agricultural production may not catch up with the rates of increases in the number of individuals that had to be fed. Since the inception of his own thoughts, the world had suffered countless incidences of hunger and starvation from Ethiopia to North Korea. Even in our midst, the Negros hunger is still etched in our mindset like a bloody leech. How could such misery be appertaining in a land like ours, where soil is fertile almost everywhere that a seed, of any roots or flowering, will often grow? Such is the predicament of the modern world in which we live in.

The pro-RH Bill advocates points out to this predicament as the strongest argument in pushing for the eventual enactment of the law, one that has slept in the doldrums of Congress for years now, but is now up for election this August 7.

Pro-RH forces invoke the following issues:

1.      The RH bill is built on the basic democratic principle of freedom of choice;
2.      Access to family planning is essential to maternal and child health;
3.      Survey after survey has shown a significant majority of respondents favoring family planning, including artificial contraception;
4.      Poor respondents, by a large majority, favor access to government-provided or facilitated family planning methods, including condoms, pills, and other methods of contraception;
5.      The 450,000 abortions that take place yearly can be significantly cut down by access to contraceptives;
6.      Income level is negatively correlated with family size, meaning the bigger the family, the poorer it is;
7.      Effective family planning is a central element in any strategy to promote development and reduce poverty.

Especially among the economists and development planners, a state-sponsored population control program becomes a condition sine qua non for social upliftment that without it, there would be no sense talking about economic progress at all.

Once I have proffered the Japan experience as a counter argument to Thomas Malthus, where even as its population has widened to a humongous number, this despite the relatively average size of its land area, it remains to this day that Japan had become the largest economy in the world, only next to the United State of America. And there is China, most populous country in the world, but now having the most vibrant economy.

But this proposition was countered as an exception, Japan having the unique characteristics of possessing extraordinarily skilled and empowered individuals. China is similarly situated.

Everywhere in the world, every suffering nation is saddled by a heavy burden of overpopulation, from India to countries in Africa, and then of course the Philippines.

This prevalent statistics makes it such a challenge for Anti-RH Bill advocates who often points out to corruption and political graft as the main cause of our misery as a nation and not the oversized number of its people.

Could we have been in a different economic circumstance now weren’t it not for the disentanglements of corrupt politicians in the past?  Could be and could not have been? It is hard to tell.

The problem with population statistics is that they often could not lead to ultimately final conclusions, as to the causes and resultants of its circumstances - only trends and potentialities. If one is an academic researcher however, then he or she would not have any other choice but to agree upon the premise that overpopulation will definitely stymy any economic initiative of any nation.

Yet, in the end, it becomes a very gargantuan dilemma that is often so difficult to tackle. Some countries have become weak due to a weak population when death rates overcome birth rates. This is the main argument of those who have withdrawn their support for the enactment of the RH Bill, seemingly accruing tothe well-accepted adage that the strength of the nation is in its people.

Morally, it becomes an even more tedious argument that in some sense we regret our own people when we invoke it as the main delinquency for our own miseries, when in fact we are speaking of human individuals here and not robots or material items.

And still on the moral side, profuse dissemination of contraceptives could breakdown morality in the society as individuals may easily be able to engage into irresponsive sexual acts, without anticipating consequences, especially among our youths. That’s one major argument against the wide distribution of contraceptive materials.

Now, I have always believed that there is always a middle point for everything. Maybe the Church and the pro-RH Bill forces could seek a middle ground. Maybe, we need a revised enactment that could meet up to everyone’s expectation.

Or is this just a frivolous effort?
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