By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

NFP, Informed Choice and Women's Rights: Dreaming about a Filipino Women's Vote

Natural Family Planning is safe and if done properly, can be effective. But the method isn't for everyone, just as the pill is not the choice of all women (although the National Health Demographic Survey of 2003 still reflects it is THE most popular modern method). Condom use in the age of HIV AIDS and STDs should be more common but in the Philippines, condom use is one of the lowest in the world.

This week, at the National Population Congress, the Department of Health and POPCOM dropped what is actually a bombshell: They launched a movement to promote NFP and are devoting more efforts to NFP to the exclusion of other methods, instead of giving Filipinos the benefit of making their own informed choices.

In proposing to focus all of its programs and efforts (and as a result most of their budget!) into "Natural Family Planning," the Department of Health and the Population Commission says they mean to address:

"-Women's fear of side effects and other health reasons
-Husband’s objection
-Culture, tradition, and religious beliefs
-Availability, accessibility, and affordability of FP services"

At this day and age of having firmly established the morality of women's human rights, our government's myopic (not to mention downright callous) response to women's lack of access to information, health services and subordinate status (in the context of marriage) is nothing short of a SELL OUT.

"Women's fear of side effects," bespeaks of the powerlesness borne out of ignorance, as well as the sorry state of reliable public information on women's health! In fact, just months ago, in coming to terms with Sex Education Guidelines developed by the Department of Education, the ensuing debate on "abstinence" and "contraception," sidetracked the all important issue of the State duty to provide quality education and information. This includes matters on sexual health. Health is a human right. Not addressing women's entitlement and right to information on sexual health matters violates that right.

Likewise, the problem of "husband's objection" by Filipino women unable to make decisions about their health and lives bespeaks of a glaring problem of inequality. Seventy-three years after gaining full "citizenship" rights (suffrage), women are still second class citizens when it comes to making decisions regarding their sexuality and sexual health.

While there is nothing wrong with scientific Natural Family Planning if it is a woman's free and INFORMED choice, why tout it as a solution for what is clearly a problem faced by women lacking in the capacity to be treated as equals in their marriage?

On the otherhand, using the age-old excuse of "culture and religious beliefs," the policy and program smacks of one-sidedness and a conservative traditional Catholic bias. After all, it is only the Catholic hierarchy which has a stated position against ALL forms of modern family planning methods.

In fact, by providing all Filipinos proper information about all methods, Catholic individuals (as well as Muslims, Christians and the secularists) are better off making their decisions freely and in accordance to their conscience, not force.

The final basis is perhaps the greatest cop out of all. Instead of addressing the LACK, this government is actually asking Filipinos to GRIN and BEAR the lack of health services.The message seems to be, "THERE ISN'T GOING TO BE ANY SO DEAL WITH IT." Given this administration's track record on "(mis)managing government funds," this in fact comes as no surprise but is also akin to putting salt on an already gaping wound!

When health services and quality information (at the very least) can no longer be reasonably expected from a State,what is the use of paying taxes? Or what is the use of having a State? Really. What is the use of prolonging this administration's hold to power?

As we watch the administration's minions waste more and more precious national time, energy and money on its cha-cha (charter change) obsession, its time to think about the decision we can make in the 2007 elections. In 2007, women's right to vote will be celebrating a 74th anniversary. Wouldn't it be something if that VOTE actually meant something again by then? Well of course that is, IF we have elections at all at the rate Congress is going!

The irony of course is that up against the antics of the administration in its attempt to prevent a 2007 election, and fiddle with the Constitution's patrimony principles, most social movements for change, that includes most feminists again find themselves in actual agreement with the Catholic hierarchy most vocal against this cha-cha charade.

The same Speaker of the House the CBCP has been lambasting for the cha-cha initiative is the same Congressman who provided over 50 million pesos to fund the DOH program contracting the Couples for Christ to campaign on exclusive Natural Family Planning (NFP). In 2005, Congressman Lagman ordered the DOH to submit copies of the so-called program in the budget hearings. Looking them over, it was clear the materials didn't just tackle NFP but misinformed about modern methods.

I guess what I really want to ask is whether we can do this (be ANTI-CHACHA) without having to ride on the coat tails of these mighty Bishops? My dream of a women's VOTE is actually simple. It rests on a notion of the legitimacy of women's rights claiming founded on human rights and dignity, NOT CHURCH (Bishop's) sanction.


Post a Comment

<< Home