Saturday, September 27, 2008

There's nothing reproductive nor healthy about it

... so to start with, I think the term "reproductive health" is misleading. And a bill that proposes teaching students starting from grade 5 in school about "how to have a safe and satisfying sex life;" making drugs and devices that mess with women's physiology and which have caused much harm to their bodies easily accessible to everyone; which imposes the number of children each family should have; and which works with the erroneous basic premise that the world is overpopulated ... simply does not have a place in Philippine society. The consolidated Reproductive Health Care Act goes against the Philippine Constitution that I don't understand why it is even being deliberated on in Congress. Good thing Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar had the courage and took the time to enumerate the specific points of the Constitution that the bill violates during last week's interpellation.

In the current issue of Baby magazine, I delved on this matter in the Editor's Notebook. I'm posting it in full here.


The bomb is ticking

Take photos of a bunch of kids on the streets of Manila -- the dirtier they look, the better. Put these images on the front page of major broadsheets and slap captions on them about how there are "too many" people in the Philippines. Do this every few weeks. There you have it: the Philippines is "overpopulated."

It's not difficult to manipulate public perception, and it's easy to believe it if you're merely on the receiving end. We overlook the fact that it's a matter of population distribution -- Manila and a few other urban centers are the only places that are congested, and those who choose to live in other parts of the country have a lot of space to themselves (not to mention cleaner air and cheaper goods).

We probably haven't really looked into verifiable data to validate claims that there are too many people on planet Earth. Look at the figures from the United Nations World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision and see there is a high probability for a population implosion, not explosion--and in a few decades societies will be composed mostly of elderly, with too few young people to support the economy.

So, if the unwitting public is led to believe that there is a "population explosion," the next step would be to present a "solution." In this case, the solution deemed fit by some legislators and interest groups is easy access to drugs and devices designed to tamper with women's bodies and their physiology, and -- in cases where the surge of hormones released by the drugs and devices don't prevent ovulation and fertilization -- flush out a fertilized ovum (read: a newly formed human being).

If you grew up believing the myth of overpopulation, it would be easy to consider something like the Consolidated Reproductive Health Bill as something good. And if you've been on the Pill or you're convinced that use of prophylactics demonstrates responsible parenting, you'll find it easy to accept everything you read about the so-called merits of contraceptives without even asking why there's such little information in the media on the side effects, health hazards and the possible motivation behind the aggressive marketing of contraception. You probably don't even ask why (if you are aware at all) the bill is calling for pills, IUDs and condoms to be categorized as "essential medicines and supplies" when evidence-based studies have proven that these have led to numerous health problems in women, including blood clots, breast cancer, cases of perforated uterus and vaginal allergies. If you don't care that some of these contraceptives have been designed to cause abortion (purposely preventing the fertilized ovum from implanting is abortion) as a "safety net" should fertilization still take place, then care about your own health. For starters, turn to page 22 for "Getting to know the real contra vida, Part 1" and be more in the know about these matters.

With a wealth of available materials which legislators and their research staff may refer to in drawing up proposed bills that will affect the lives of their constituents, one wonders how lawmakers Edcel Lagman, Janette Garin, Narciso Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Eleandro Jesus Madrona and Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel can formulate laws that involve drugs and devices that are detrimental to women's bodies and may even cause early-term abortions.

We human beings can be so ingenious. We have come up with groundbreaking inventions that have made life more convenient. But we have also made inventions that push us a step backward -- such as drugs and devices that harm the body, confuse the mind and mislead the emotions. And in the long run, rid the world of its most important resource -- people.

But there's still hope -- as long as we go beyond overpopulation myths and make good our promise to leave our kids with a world where children are treasured and life is deemed precious.

- Diana Uichanco
Baby Magazine, Sept. 2008


Anonymous said...

I think you need to learn more about the concepts of carrying capacity and overshoot and take a more global view.

We’ve already exceed global carrying capacity. We are now in “overshoot” - a condition in which the population is well beyond any sustainable number.

Global population is nearing 7 billion. Global carrying capacity is only about 2 billion. (This assumes some level of social justice and a moderate, low by 'Western' standards, standard of living. More people are indeed possible if you prefer a cattle car / Matrix / starving village scenario)

We will get to that ~ 2 billion number the hard way (wars, famine, disease, and their accompanying losses of environmental quality, freedom, and social justice) OR the less hard way (immediately and drastically reducing our population voluntarily).

Yes, I mean all of us, yes I mean everywhere.

Yes a drop in population will cause problems, but none of those problems are as big as the problems, suffering, and environmental collapse that is certain to occur if we don’t.

No technological / "alternative energy" options have the capacity or can be ramped up fast enough to avoid major global calamity. That isn't to say we shouldn't do them, aggressively shifting to alternative energy is necessary, just not sufficient.

It’s too late for any “us” vs “them” arguments or any belief that national boundaries will do much to help anyone in the long run. This is a global issue with local and nation-state consequences. For example, immigration is a consequence of overpopulation, not a cause of it. Likewise, global climate change is not impressed by national boundaries.

Some argue that all this is less important than some “right to reproduce”. If there is any "right to reproduce" it's in the concept that one has the freedom to nurture a child or children and form a family - biological reproduction is not necessary to do that and there are many in need of this sort of nurturing.

Being a parent is much different from the romantic and oxytocin enhanced notion of “having a baby”. Parenting is something you do for 18+ years, not a one time biological act. In addition, at least one criterion to reproduce would be to not only have the necessary skills and resources to parent a child for 18 years or so, but that doing so would not cause suffering for others either now or in the future.

Since we are beyond our global carrying capacity, no one can truly biologically reproduce and meet that criteria.

One of the key factors in this scenario is also our sense of time. This is a slow motion crash that requires immediate action, a bit like trying to steer a supertanker on a crash course by putting in consistent input over a multi year time frame, and the one effective input is to stop making babies. (Yes all of us and yes everywhere.)

The supertanker analogy is also apt because it was oil that allowed us to get this far out on a limb, and peak oil has already happened.

Anonymous said...

For more comprehensive analysis of this I strongly recommend Approaching the Limits ( and The Oil Drum | Peak Oil Overview - June 2007 (

DJB Rizalist said...

Please join the lively debate and discussion on this topic over at Filipino Voices

Is the Reproductive Health Bill Unconstitutional

Resolved: That Abortion Be Decriminalized

Remove the Anti-poor Bans on Divorce and Abortion

When Does Human Life Begin?

The Catholic Magisterium on Contraception

Support the Reproductive Health Bill

We'd love to hear your voice on this crucial national issue.

John Jansen said...

Great article.

I'm reminded of a wry blog entry Mark Shea posted a while back about a "The sky is falling!" sort of article about population trends in the developing world (and the Philippines in particular, as it happens).

Under the headling, "Resource Hogs Blame Poverty on Church, Brown People", he wrote:

"The solution of rich Western elites to poverty is always and everywhere, 'Just enough of me. Way too much of you. Cull your herds and buy Pepsi.'"

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I think you need to rethink. You asserted that the global carry capacity is 2 B and it is good that you yourself pointed out that the present population is already 7 billion. Why are we still alive? UN population division said that the population problem is not explosion but implosion--graying population. I suggest you have to rethink your thesis. It does not hold water. It is not supported by empirical evidence. Doomsday prophecy!

Climate change is a constant since the beginning of the earth. Change is the only constant as Albert Einstein would say. every nanosecond of earth's life there is change. Can you stop it? NO!

pollution and enviromental degradation is capitlism's fault. The drive for more profit and this same greed caused the present financial meltdown. It is not population but capitalists' greed that is the cause of poverty and misery of the world's masses. War and famine is due to greed. World food production growth rate has surpassed or overtaken population growth rate. It is not supply but distribution. On one pole there is over-production and excessive lifestyle while on the other pole, famine.

Be critical and do not take gospel truths what the capitalists are telling you.

petrufied said...

Besides, "carrying capacity" refers to animal population. Any ecologist would know that.

No doubt humans are different because we can adjust and raise our standards of living. It's the reasoning and creativity that people have that exempts them from the limits posed by carrying capacity.

Manny said...

Carrying capacity is a disingenious term that conveniently ignores the fact that people are NOT mere consumers, they are also PRODUCERS.

People are capable of producing far more than they consume. When they work together, they multiply that effect and increase efficiency. Dense population enable mass markets, mass production, efficient delivery of goods and services, and the vastly human interactions promote innovation and creativity.

In fact, people do not only produce from given resources, they also DISCOVER new ways to use things -- effectively discovering new resources. 200 years ago, oil was considered a nuisance and could depress property values. Then mankind found uses for it and suddenly oil became an important resource. As people live and work together to solve problems, this occurs over and over again.

Mankind is NOWHERE near depleting our resources or overburdening the earth's "carrying capacity". Overpopulation is already an acknowledged MYTH. it is amazing that some Filipinos should be so backward-thinking that they still believe in such obsolete DISinformation.

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