I am a Catholic. But I’m a health professional too, a nurse to be exact. I’m female.
We took care not only of mothers or babies, but families too, in our Community Health Nursing courses. We have handled newly married couples wanting to start their own families (or live-in couples) to couples with children more than 5 (the biggest family I have handled was a family of 10, including the parents).
As part of our family assessment, we usually ask couples their desired number of children, their reasons for stating that number, and whether or not they would be open to the idea of family planning.
When we asked couples with many children (greater than 5) their desired number of children, most of them will answer 2-3. They obviously recognize that having more than the desired number of children reduces every family member’s chances of having a quality life: adequate food, clothing, shelter, and education. When we ask them if they are open to the idea of family planning, majority actually welcome it. Note, that almost 99% of these families are in the lower socioeconomic class. A number would say that if they knew how to plan for a family earlier, then they would have given their children a better quality of life. A healthy, well-clothed, educated child living under a good home is what these couples (or parents) want in common.
And family planning is not all about contraceptives. We have reproductive health education: we teach the couples the basic parts of the female and male reproductive anatomy (both external and internal anatomy) and their functions.
And contraceptives are not limited to artificial only; there are natural family planning methods also. Couples can actually choose to use either of the two or even use both for better efficiency.
We also teach the couples how these planning methods prevent the occurrence of fertilization, as in the case of artificial family planning method, generally by altering the level of the female’s hormones in relation to the menstrual cycle (pills or injectables) or using barrier methods available to both sexes (condoms for men and diaphragms for women). For natural family planning methods, we usually teach the couples the menstrual cycle: which days the female is fertile (meaning: having sex during this period could lead to pregnancy) and which days the female is not fertile (meaning: having sex during this time have less chances of getting pregnant). Of course, we also discuss about abstinence.
As much as possible, we discuss these things with the male and female present. We present the pros and cons of each method, including the side effects, which are usually not life-threatening (e.g. dizziness) or certain individuals who are not advisable to use a particular method (e.g. women age 35 and up). We always stress that both man and woman have the responsibility and both should come up with a decision or a family planning method they deem most effective and cost-friendly. Getting pregnant, delivering a baby and raising a child is difficult and costly. However, a well-planned and healthy pregnancy as well as adequate spacing of children will reduce the possibilities of maternal and infant death, as well as incidence (and prevalence) of poverty in the long run. Family finances are adequately allocated for food, shelter, clothing, education, health, recreation and other expenses. Parents can save more money for their children’s future.
The RH Bill is not a population control measure nor does it legalize abortion (btw, there are different kinds of abortion but this is not the focus of my discussion right now). Artificial family planning methods or contraceptives are not dangerous nor harmful; if it does, then why did the World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration and Department of Health allowed the sale and distribution of such items? In everything, there is a certain degree of risk, but these institutions have already evaluated those drugs or items as safe. If a particular contraceptive is proved harmful by evidence, then it will be immediately pulled out of the market. Remember also that there are some people who might be allergic or sensitive to a certain product and there are alternatives for them. The government has to do their part, but we have to do our own part as well.
The RH Bill is not an anti-Catholic nor does it side with any religion. It promotes freedom of choice, reproductive health education, responsible parenting and family planning. An improved quality of life is universal. It does not pinpoint any particular religion, country or race. We all want to live a comfortable life and we want the best for our children (or future children in my case).
Passing the RH Bill does not mandate each and every Filipino to use contraceptives. It’s your choice. If you don’t want to use it, then don’t. If other people want to use it, then let them. In addition, poverty does not only stem from corruption, but also ignorance, miseducation and lack of education. Educating people, making them more aware and vigilant of their reproductive health are more cost-effective ways than battling corruption.
A micro-strategy, if implemented and used to its fullest extent, can bring an overall macro-improvement in the Philippine society. This is why I support the RH Bill: it is for the improvement of the Filipinos’ lives.