Reproductive Health Bill: A Misnomer

When we say we are healthy, we mean that we have no disease or ailment: we can walk, talk, hear, see, touch, and taste as a normal person. When we are not healthy, as when we have a fever, our body shivers, our foods taste bland, and our balance uneasy; we drag our legs, we read with tears, and we sleep in anguish.

Reproduction is the ability to make a copy of the original.   In inanimate reproduction, the copier has no likeness with the copy, e.g., a photocopier is not the same as the document it reproduces.  In animate reproduction, on the other hand, the copier has a likeness with its copy, e.g. a bacteria makes new copies of itself. For sexual animals like humans, a male and a female of the same specie mate and their offspring is their copy, their image and likeness: the offspring inherits traits both from its father and mother. The child may get his blue eyes from his Caucasian father and his brown skin from his Asian mother.

So what is reproductive health?  Reproductive health is a condition wherein one’s reproductive system is functioning properly.  That is, when two reproductively healthy couple, a man and a woman, engages in sexual intercourse, the normal result is pregnancy.  If one of them has a sexual dysfunction, no pregnancy occurs.  So we say that he or she is not reproductively healthy.  In Filipino, we describe this person as baog, in comparison to an unfertilized chicken egg that will never hatch, regardless how long the hen lays on it; in time such eggs rot and stink.

Let us compare our definition with that of the proponents of the reproductive health bill:

Reproductive Health – refers to the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction.

This definition is troublesome.  By including physical, mental, and social well-being in the definition, even in the absence of disease or infirmity, the proponents of the bill have extended the definition of reproductive health beyond what the phrase reproductive health can hold.  If reproductive health means safe sex–which has come to mean not safety from diseases but safety from the thought of getting pregnant–then the proponents promote not reproduction but contraception: condoms, pills, IUD’s, and vasectomies.  If reproductive health means freedom to choose to have or not to have children, then the proponents sees children not as the future of our country nor gifts to be cherished nor support in old age, but simply as additional mouths to feed.  If reproductive health means equal status to women and men (not men and women) in sexual and reproductive matters, then the proponents see marriage as class warfare, a Marxist struggle for dominance and power, not as a way of mutual self-giving nor a bond of love.

The reproductive health bill is a misnomer: it should be renamed as the National Contraception Bill of 2008.

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About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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