The Story of the RH Bill

Posted at 12/19/2012 4:44 PM

After more than 10 years of legislative debate, the Philippines will finally have a Reproductive Health (RH) law giving all Filipinos who ask for it the knowledge, services and information they need to make informed choices about planning their families.

It was quite a struggle getting the law passed. There was a huge national discussion, with plenty of complex and deep arguments against the proposed law – arguments best summarized by that famous, old and traditional saying: "the Church doesn't want it."

Apparently the Church hierarchy opposed RH because it concerned sex, which is something that always enrages certain ferocious Catholics. "Get it out of here, get it out of here!", these faithful typically shriek every time they see the three-letter word in the same room.

Also, the Church hierarchy, speaking with all the authority of old men who've never had sex, seemed to believe that passing any law involving contraceptives and condoms would immediately precipitate an orgiastic firestorm which would see Filipinos copulating nonstop and wildly on the streets, on tops of buses, in billboard scaffoldings along EDSA, etc. A hellish, Biblically epic and appalling vision indeed -- one anybody would surely condemn as soon as they uploaded videos of it on YouTube.

Anti-RH Catholics claimed that passing the RH bill would "open the gates to promiscuity," leading to premarital sex, loose living, pornography, masturbation, homosexuality, abortion and adultery, which as we all know has never existed in these pristine, virginal and innocent shores of ours. Why, just ask any of our religiously faithful political leaders – the one with 120 kids, six wives and countless mistresses, perhaps? Or maybe the one caught in a motel with a girlfriend? – and they'll all swear to this.

The national debate on the RH Bill coincided with the surge in the use of Facebook and Twitter in this country, allowing the two opposing sides to see and read each other up close and personal, and to have intense, rational discussions.

"Hello Damasos!", the Pro RH would say.

"Hello babykillers!", the Antis would fire back. Adding, for good measure, "abortionists, Satanists, atheists, fornicators, prostitutes, sex fiends and communists." Most of the antis turned out to be suffering from the dreaded DNRTB Syndrome – Did Not Read The Bill – but didn't worry about it because they could count on getting factual, accurate info from their priests.

The social network fora on RH centered on the rights of women, couples, families, babies and the unborn -- but things usually descended into trash-talk on both sides.

"Tell us about those bishops and those little kids and the illegal ivory collections and SUVs they asked from the government", the pro RH would write.

"Tell us about your plan to eradicate humanity with the help of the UN, WHO, World Bank, the UNFPA and killer contraceptives", the antis would respond.

Meanwhile, offline, bishops would join in with their own trash-talk, adding a different flavor to the discourse because, as we all know, bishops trash-talk in cosmic terms. "And so God sayeth: if ye pass the RH Bill, I'll kill all these innocent people with a typhoon. Amen."

The bishops also offered more balanced, nuanced views, e.g., the RH bill would corrupt us all, it's a moral time bomb that will destroy civilization, and if the President signed it into law, he would be worse than a serial killer because he'd be murdering 20 million babies. Pretty level-headed stuff.

Thankfully, discussion was more elevated in the august halls of Congress, where the RH bill was debated seriously. After weeks of deliberation, lawmakers established the following things:

"Plagiarism is A-OK"

"Safe and satisfying sex for women? WTF?!"

Congressional output such as these in turn provoked the public into deep discussions and questions such as (a) "How did these cretins ever become senators?" and (b) "is he even still alive?"

Actually the Church was counting on the support of many politicians – congressmen and local officials who were  Catholic and nationalist at the same time, in the sense that "nationalist" meant "a proud citizen of the Vatican." Unfortunately for the Church, it turned out that more Filipinos and their politicians supported the RH bill and despite the best efforts of the hierarchy the country will get an RH Law by the end of the year.

This only leaves Filipinos to look back on the fierce debate and ponder the lessons, the main one being that anti-RH activists really do say some pretty weird stuff. For instance:

Now that you've passed the RH bill, my conscience says I have to marry my goldfish. Can you make a law for that also? (REPLY: Does your goldfish know it's about to tie the knot with a less intelligent life form?)

Passing the RH Bill will deprive the Philippines of having its own Justin Bieber. (REPLY: I don't see that as a minus)

The RH bill is a foreign imposition, but the Catholic church is not because it was created in Israel which is part of Asia and the Philippines is part of Asia and therefore I think I'll have a drink now.