Thursday, October 30, 2008


Despite my misgivings about Rep. Edcel Lagman, I have to commend him for spearheading the Reproductive Health Bill despite strong opposition from various groups.

What is the reproductive health bill? It is important to know what it is and what it is not. It is not a mandate to limit the number of children a married couple can have (e.g. China's one-child policy). Neither is it a bill which allows abortion. It is a bill which gives a choice as to the means of family planning.

The dissent against the bill comes mainly from pro-life and Catholic groups. They argue that based on Catholic teachings, artificial methods of family planning are against the natural law.

But in passing a law, the lawmaker does not merely look at the interest of a particular group alone. More so if the bill will benefit the majority, especially those in the lower strata of our society.

And even if we go by the church's teaching, Humanae Vitae tells us that marital sexual activity possesses both unitive and procreative purposes. This implies that a married couple does not have sex solely to procreate. Sex can also be an activity which can bond the husband and wife - a sort of a high point (dare I say climax?) for the couple. In other words, sexual intimacy is a way for husband and wife to express their love for one another. To argue that sex and procreation are inseparable would lead to an absurd situation wherein a sterile couple should not have sex since no offspring will result anyway.

It is also sort of hypocritical to favor natural methods over artificial methods since their purpose is the same, which is to defer child-bearing. So the issue for spouses is not what method to choose in family planning, but what the motivation behind the family planning is. Here is an example:

Suppose there are two married couples. With couple #1, the wife is as regular as clockwork. The husband and wife can thus time their sexual act in order to avoid pregnancy. But the reason for the use of natural methods is because they do not want to have children at all, since kids would impede their careers and their social lives. With couple #2, the wife has highly irregular cycles. The spouses are not closed to the idea of having another kid, but they want to space out the childbirth, in order to give due care to each child.

Looking at the scenarios above, can couple #2 be faulted for resorting to the artificial method? Should couple #1 be lauded for choosing the natural method?

Note: To avoid confusion (and to avoid being accused of selective quoting), Humane Vitae says that the unitive significance and procreative significance are both "inherent to the marriage act." As to the issue of artificial methods, Humanae Vitae has this to say:

Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question We must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.

Photo: Martin Pettitt, Flickr., Creative Commons

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