A matter of principle

After debating the RH Bill for about four years now, I think I can honestly say that I have probably heard every single argument, both good and bad, that exist for and against the bill. I’ve heard arguments that rely on principle, and arguments that rely on pragmatic effects. Both sides have their points. Both sides have their fair share of great arguments and terrible ones. It doesn’t matter if we Catholics are on the opposing side; our religious affiliation does not make our stand any less valid. But what all this has taught me, above all else, is that in the end, the side you choose boils down to a matter of principle.

I’d like to think that while reason does play a significant role in the crafting of good arguments, when you’ve heard them all, it really doesn’t matter. What matters more, I have learned, is what principles you hold to be in higher value–whether those be the ones upheld by the proponents or the opponents of the bill. Ultimately, that is what decides which side you take. An argument can be flawlessly constructed; but if you don’t buy the principle that it attempts to forward, then it really won’t matter.

People often ask me what the single strongest argument against the RH Bill is. I don’t really know what to tell them. The reason I think that is so because I doubt there is even such thing as a “strongest argument”. There are only arguments that make sense to you, and arguments that don’t. Recently, however, as I was contemplating the principle of principles, it occurred me that the strongest argument to me wasn’t so much an argument, but rather a personal principle.

I believe that it is fundamentally wrong for the State to blame the poor for having too many children as the cause of poverty to cover up for their own failures as a government to respond to those needs. Simply put, if a family of six can’t afford to feed themselves because the parents were not able to get a job, I don’t think it’s the fault of the parents for having too many kids, but rather the fault of the government for not being able to give the proper opportunities to them. I’m not saying that governments must be perfect; but when you consider the endemic corruption in the Philippines, I think we would be letting the government off too easy by letting them point their fingers at the poor.

The RH Bill is no longer a debate about just facts or arguments. It has evolved into a clash of principles. What do you hold to be more important– economic growth or demographic stabilization? Band-aid solution or sustainable development? Are you willing to risk risk compensation with contraceptive use? Are you amenable to offering dangerous substances as solutions? Are you willing to go through an economic high if it means that someday we’ll be begging for people to have children? When women die of birth complications, is preventing them from getting pregnant the real solution? Is choice an end in itself?

Ultimately, it’s no longer about the arguments. It’s become a matter of principle.

About these ads
    • ladflkasdjf
    • July 31st, 2012

    di kasi. you’re just giving people (1) awareness on how to do birth control and (2) the option to get condoms for free w/c they can’t get, particularly for those in impoverished regions ie. a province in Mindanao/Visayas. kung wala silang condom, dahil tanga sila at malibog sila, mabubuntis lang sila ng mabubuntis. such a retard.

    • It’s sad that:
      1. You don’t have the guts to comment using your real name.
      2. You see the poor as ‘tanga’ and ‘malibog’.
      3. You didn’t understand the point of this article.

      You only further prove my point. You seem to imply that the poor are a lesser form of human and that they are rascals who have to be prevented from multiplying. I, on the other hand, maintain that each person has the same level of human dignity, and should be accorded the protection that all humans deserve.

        • Kat
        • July 31st, 2012

        If you are so bent on upholding human dignity, then you should help those who don’t want many children but end having more than they can take care of because they don’t know how not to.

        It’s not about libog or katangahan. It’s about choice. I was lucky to have been born to a middle-class family, with access to an education that taught me about safe sex, money to buy condoms, and an OB-GYN to give me cervical cancer shots. It makes me sick that we’re depriving the less fortunate of even just some of these things that I got purely out of the lottery of birth.

        It’s fine and commendable to hold on to your principles, Lance. No one is asking you to change them. When this bill is enacted, you can exercise your right to ignore its implementation completely. But I find it disappointing that you would deprive others of THEIR principles–heck, of a chance at a decent life–just to promote yours.

        Lastly, I find it so petty that you would call someone gutless just because s/he didn’t put his name on a comment. It’s the internet. Get used to it.

      • If we’re talking about sex education, my stand on that is that schools should teach the parents how to teach their children. I don’t think we need comprehensive education on that from nine years old up. But that’s beside the point.

        I agree that it’s not about libog or katangahan. And I am definitely not saying that it’s their fault that they are poor. I just don’t agree with using public funds on something that isn’t a public good. I just don’t see the point in buying condoms and pills when some hospitals don’t even have enough beds. While it may solve some problems immediately, it can and probably will worsen what is a positive demographic scenario, among other things. Simply put, I’d prefer having more people over better economy.

        If passed, I don’t think I can ignore the implementation completely. Sure, I won’t avail of the free condoms. But if I know that the taxes I pay go to providing for it, then I don’t exactly see how I can just ignore it. And if I’m depriving others of their principles, wouldn’t you be depriving me of mine too, if the bill was passed?

        And about the anonymity? I understand; I’m merely pointing out that I think it’s a sign of cowardice :P

    • Niboe Herrera
    • July 31st, 2012

    “What do you hold to be more important– economic growth or demographic stabilization? Band-aid solution or sustainable development? Are you willing to risk risk compensation with contraceptive use? Are you amenable to offering dangerous substances as solutions? Are you willing to go through an economic high if it means that someday we’ll be begging for people to have children? When women die of birth complications, is preventing them from getting pregnant the real solution? ”
    lance, those arent the dichotomies. the main thrust of the RH bill is education and availability of care. if you still dont want to employ those methods, no one forces you to. Also, get your facts and statistics from reputable sites. the various birth control methods in the bill have been proven safe over and over.

    • The dichotomies aren’t RH Bill vs. No RH Bill. They’re RH Bill vs. Other Solutions. This post isn’t so much a debate about whether it’s good or bad; to be honest, I’ve had enough of that. It’s really just meant to question what kind of principles you hold important. (And on another note, isn’t the WHO reputable? And about IUDs, Pill, etc., regardless of whether they’re safe or not, I’d also like to contend with them on their abortifacient nature, which is prohibited by our Constitution, not just whether they’re safe or not.)

    • Niboe Herrera
    • July 31st, 2012

    also, rh is not just contraceptives. it provides for maternal care as well. so yes, death by complications will likely go down.

    • I know that! I’m not against maternal healthcare at all. But I’d like to think that if they were really concerned about the women, they’d spend less money trying to prevent them from getting pregnant and instead training more midwives, teaching NFP (which is free forever and has no side effects), and buying more neonatal healthcare facilities.

    • Niboe Herrera
    • July 31st, 2012

    sorry ang panget. naka on-screen keyboard ako, sira keyboard ng laptop e.

  1. Great post, Lance!! Your thesis is astute – it squares well with a number of studies I’ve read which basically all say the same thing: that when we argue about political issues, we tend to begin with our premeditated conclusions or “stances” then work out the logic backwards, instead of actually trying to learn something from the other side and come to a compromise, which is what debate should be about. I’m wondering now how much this tendency is influenced by the structure of most high school and inter-collegiate debate training, where you’re often asked to defend a stance you may not personally subscribe to. Maybe mental gymnastics are cultivated early on.

    We are all biased by our values, and it seems like Filipinos’ values diverge quite a bit when it comes to this issue. Political science 101 tells us that eventually we’ll have to come to compromise in this issue; I haven’t seen much in the way of centrist alternatives to this bill, although you might have.

    As someone with as many people close to me who vocally support the bill as those who warn against it, it seems like both sides do have convincing arguments; I am a fan of expanded sexual education because it works, and being a political progressive I support the idea using taxpayer money to set up programs that I view as bettering society. On the other hand, I am fully aware that a bill as expansive and vague as this (having read the text, I think there’s lots of room for interpretation) could be subject to all kinds of abuse. There’s also the concern that this bill could be seen as yet another unwanted appendage to the West’s very well-oiled system of exploitation of developing countries such as ours; if we stick by the first rule of journalism and follow the money, I’m sure we’d find institutions in whose self-interest is the retardation of our country’s unique rate of growth.

    Ultimately, for me, it comes down to empathy. My political goals, to oversimplify a bit, are the reduction of human suffering and the abolishment of coercion by others – even shorter, welfare and freedom. When deciding on whether a law is a good thing or a bad thing, I think about whom it affects positively and whom it affects negatively and figure out if the tradeoffs are worth it. For example, having the government tell companies that they can’t emit a certain level of carbon may harm growth – but I can’t really feel as much empathy for rich oil company CEOs as for the millions of people their projects might kill later on because of global warming. When it comes to the RH Bill, I empathize with the poor mother in Smokey Mountain who can barely afford to have two children and must now support three, or lower-income teens in the provinces who don’t realize that having sex with their friends without using proper contraception can literally ruin their lives. I don’t think I’m blaming the poor – I’m blaming the fact that poor people exist in the first place, and two resources that they don’t have are proper sex education and access to contraceptives. I’m all for increasing availability of those resources. (That doesn’t mean I’d oppose government measures that control for inequality in other ways! Sex education is just one of the many steps we need to take to reform public education, but it is a step.)

    Surely, there must be some kind of compromise. If the concern is how inefficient the government is, maybe pro-RH advocates could band together and fund a private non-profit entity that accomplishes the same goals as the RH bill. I can’t imagine anyone really opposing individuals in the private sector going to low-income areas to teach people who to have safe sex. However, in my experience non-profits are even more inefficient and ineffective, so I don’t know how far a proposition like that would go. On the other hand, maybe the anti-RH’ers could come up with an alternative bill that included some of the original bill’s provisions (with slight modifications – perhaps we could have public schools teach parents how to teach children about safe sex, like you suggest) while leaving out the more contentious/suspicious policy suggestions.

    All in all, I don’t think we as a country are divided enough that we either HAVE to implement ALL of the RH Bill or we should NEVER implement ANY of the RH Bill. Compromise is the essence of policymaking and I hope we see some of it soon.

    • geekborj
    • August 1st, 2012

    Niboe Herrera :
    “What do you hold to be more important– economic growth or demographic stabilization? Band-aid solution or sustainable development? Are you willing to risk risk compensation with contraceptive use? Are you amenable to offering dangerous substances as solutions? Are you willing to go through an economic high if it means that someday we’ll be begging for people to have children? When women die of birth complications, is preventing them from getting pregnant the real solution? ”

    Exactly. The “solution” offered by the Bill interacts with the economy and demography. Do you think the Philippines will not get here without the workforce born 20 to 30 years ago? What if the Philippines “controlled” its population then?

    Is “pregnancy prevention” the solution to “birth complications and death”? Isn’t it the addition of more humane and professional services for those who are pregnant. The issue is “birth complications” hence it must be that we reduce the ratio: (death related to birth) / (total number of births). If you simply reduce the number of birth without increasing the humane and professional services available and accessible to the Filipinos/nas, it cannot solve the true problem.

    RH Bill is not a silver bullet. It’s a Trojan Horse that will eventually cause economic and demographic problems.

    The Country has reached this economic level without RH, and will go on and stay there the longest time without it.

    lance, those arent the dichotomies.

    There is no dichotomy when it comes to social and economic systems. I believe this should be obvious that the RH seem not to recognize.

    the main thrust of the RH bill is education and availability of care. if you still dont want to employ those methods, no one forces you to. Also, get your facts and statistics from reputable sites. the various birth control methods in the bill have been proven safe over and over.

    “The various birth control methods in the bill”? Which are these? No specific birth control methods are not mentioned in the RH Bill (in congress, at least): Definition, “Modern Methods of Family Planning refers to safe, effective and legal methods, whether the natural, or the artificial that are registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health (DOH);”

    In the Magna Carta of Women, an additional qualifier was added: “ethical”.

    If “no one forces” to employ these methods? How’s that when the Country WILL definitely SPEND millions of hard-earned tax money from this?

    Distribution of FREE “material gifts” is teaching irresponsibility. What the country can do is help LOWER THE PRICE of the promoted “modern family planning methods” instead of buying them for free. How would they know how to be responsible if they can’t even lift any finger and earn extra for their “sexual appetite”? Why can’t the government create programs and infrastructures that channels energy of “poor” to more productive activities? There are a lot less risky options!

    • YOURFUCKINGCLASSMATE
    • August 1st, 2012

    “I’d like to think that while reason does play a significant role in the crafting of good arguments, when you’ve heard them all, it really doesn’t matter.”

    WTF?

    In short.. “Fuck logic.”

    When you’ve heard them all… YOU DECIDE. WHICH WILL PRODUCE BETTER OUTCOMES FOR EVERYONE (Taking into consideration harms and benefits, weighing them like an average reasonable person)… YOU DON’T JUST GO… “OOHH MY PERSONAL PRRIINNCCIIIPPPLLEE SHOULD DICTATE THE AVAILABILITY OF CONTRACEPTIVES THAT COULD SAVE YOU FROM AIDS, AND BABIES YOU CANNOT TAKE CARE OFF… NOT THE CONVINCING ARGUMENTS I’VE ALREADY HEARD… FOR THE LAST FOUR FUCKING YEARS.”

    Lol.

    But in all seriousness, when you’ve heard all arguments, you don’t make policies based on some obscure personal principle. You have to weigh predicted outcomes then… make a decision based on REASON.

    “if we ever want to live in a world where decisions are made on the basis of logic and persuasion, not force or intimidation”

    • You misunderstand! The thesis of my essay is that the role of arguments and logic are merely limited to justifying your position, but are not responsible for getting you to that position in the first place. Simply put, more often than not, you start at the end (which is your position) and work your way back (to the arguments). Very rarely do people stop, consider both arguments from a purely unbiased perspective, and then make a decision. The fact is, we all have our biases, and that’s perfectly fine. Your personal principle IS that bias, whether it be your religion or your preference for demographic stability over economic progress. In the end, what matters is what matters to you. Consider abortion: I can name a dozen arguments why the life of the child should be upheld and another dozen on why the mother’s right should be upheld. When you take a stand, it won’t be about which argument is better constructed, but rather which principle–right to life or right to choice–you deem more important.

      That’s how it seems to work for most people. But then again, maybe you’re an exception. :P

        • Classmate
        • August 1st, 2012

        Sorry for the rude comment! Nerd rage, but you get my point!

      • No worries! Hahaha

  2. Lance, I think you see things in a very idealistic perspective. When there is a problem at hand such as poor families with an overwhelming number of children, you don’t solve the problem by blaming the state and telling them you should’ve done this and that in the first place. That doesn’t solve anything. You see it as scapegoating, we see it as a political pragmatism. But the most important point that should be answered is what do we do now with the problem?

    To be fair, unless you have a direct line to the government’s medulla oblongata, you cannot concretely prove if it’s really scapegoating or being pragmatic. But at least on our side, we are finally doing something about it.

    Also, even the best governments in the world have their shortcomings. What we should do is face the music and recognize that the problem exists. Now if you’re looking for reform in the government, that can go hand-in-hand with the RH law. I don’t know why reforms and the RH law have to be mutually exclusive.

    One more thing, there is nothing wrong with having personal convictions, but try to be open to new ones or those which even sound radical to you. Forming your own value system should be a constantly evolving process, but it can only happen if you keep an open mind and heart.

    Have a nice day!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers

%d bloggers like this: