There’s something revolting about the discussions of the RH Bill, if not that the subject for some is enough cause for revulsion. It seems that the ticklish subject more than just ruffles feathers: it pisses people off.
I usually surmise that something as sensitive and personal as reproduction can – and should – elicit the most personal and emotional responses from people. Whether it’s from the die-hard Catholics who see the bill as a violation of their faith to the die-hard supporters who see the Church as an obstacle to human freedom, there’s no stopping the jeering and the insulting from both sides of the fence.
What turns me off (but really, in the whole mess of things what I think does not matter) about the whole RH Bill brouhaha is the seeming lack of respect that each side has for the other. The arguments from either side or from the sidelines don’t set the proper environment for debate. The RH debate, as it stands, is disrespectful discussion; it’s one that doesn’t seek to enlighten, but to entice spite and to dwell – and dwell – on animosities and differences of opinion that can only be resolved through name-calling.
It doesn’t have value either to those who need RH education the most: the poor, the vulnerable, and those who would benefit the most from some avenue of population control in the Philippines. If anything, it is they who should be at the center of these conversations and not at the sidelines, not merely as those who reap the consequences of the jeering and heckling sowed on Twitter. The more we heckle, the more we turn this debate out of their reach and understanding.
I’m for the passage of the RH Bill myself, albeit on nuances that drive more towards the center than towards the extremes of “yes” or “no.” I believe that having provisions for reproductive health in the Philippines provide people with the options necessary to make informed choices for themselves. I am for birth control, but not for the forcible enforcement of it. I am for condoms, but not for the public funding of it. The classroom can more or less be a place for respectful agreements or disagreements on RH, where the premises of discussion are taught to open minds for them to make free and open choices.
I respect the religious position against the RH Bill, but that comes with the caveat that they respect my position enough not to condemn my living soul to some concept of Hell. I respect civil society’s position for the RH Bill, but that comes with the caveat that I do not condone the interruption of something as deeply personal as a Mass. I am for the RH Bill for so long as such a measure becomes an avenue for a more long-term project of the even and equitable distribution of resources, and bridge the gap of the rich and the poor. It should not just a stopgap measure to address crowding and overpopulation. RH is not just about condoms and religious belief, but should be framed in things like education, nutrition, and the empowerment of the public.
Indeed, I believe the RH Bill’s morality should be framed in that larger context: that reproductive health is a long-term project. Reproductive health should not be a social sacrifice, much less a silver bullet, but an avenue to help society prioritize its needs. Reproductive health should be part of a greater part of choices made available to everyone not just for managing our population against our resources, but of social justice.
RH should definitely be a choice in a free and just society, but that should not come with putting other non-debatable needs – like education, nutrition, and public healthcare – at the back seat with everything else. The RH debates should go on, but with respect and prudence in the discussions.