President Elect Rodrigo Duterte was again in the headlines last week for lambasting the Catholic Church and its bishops and priests for being corrupt. He taunted the church as being irrelevant since they actively campaigned against him, yet he still won by a landslide. He also criticized the church’s stance forbidding modern family planning methods. He said that defying the Church stand against family planning “will do us good.” He continued, “I’m a Christian, but I’m a realist so we have to do something with our overpopulation. The religious sector, I’m sorry, your fundamental beliefs do not solve the problems of the country.”
Around the same time, articles surfaced claiming that Duterte was considering a three-child policy in the Philippines. He has since released statements saying he will not pursue a forced three-child policy but strongly recommends that couples only have three children so they can care for them responsibly.
I don’t often share the same views as Duterte but I am pleased that he supports reproductive health. I call on him to support the full implementation of the RH Law once he is in power. Full implementation requires him to:
- Restore the nearly 1 billion pesos of family planning commodities that Tito Sotto and Loren Legarda removed from the Department of Health budget last January;
- Ensure that all Local Government Units adhere to the RH Law and make free contraceptives universally accessible in their communities;
- Lobby for the Supreme Court to stop delaying their decision on the Temporary Restraining Order on the hormonal implant, Implanon;
- Require the Department of Education to create and implement clear, science-based curricula on age-appropriate sex education;
- Ensure that funds are allocated to the Department of Education for the training of teachers and implementation of reproductive health teaching in public schools all over the country.
Finally, I want to reiterate my support of Duterte NOT pursuing a three-child policy for the country. Reproductive health is not and should not be a population control method. For supporters of the RH Law like myself, it has never been about arbitrarily limiting the number of children a woman or couple can have.
The full realization of reproductive rights means that people should be educated about their bodies and their health, and should understand how pregnancy happens, and how to prevent it. It includes a woman or a couple freely deciding whether or not to have children, and if so, having the ability to decide when and how frequently to bear another child.
Using reproductive health to pursue population control leads to the abuse of rights. In countries like China, where the government has had a strict one-child policy for decades, the policy has led to forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, and government control of procreation. We would do well to steer clear of this path and instead focus on the implementation of all the rights guaranteed in the Reproductive Health Law. When women and couples are educated and can plan the number and spacing of their babies, they have fewer, healthier children, which leads to healthier families and communities.
And who wouldn’t want that?