Reproductive Health 101.

Let’s make love as if it’s just the animal in us?

Love for sale. That’s the oldest profession in the world. In the Philippines, the ladies and gentlemen who are proponents of Senate Bill 40, SB 43, SB 622, SB 1256 and SB 1299, and House Bill 5043, all with their Gospel of Reproductive Health and their Prophecy of Sustainable Human Development, perhaps don’t realize it, but with all that insistent talk about the State guaranteeing universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, techniques, devices, equipment, drugs, medicines, supplies and pertinent information, essentially each of those bills makes love for sale. Cheap!

If you want to buy my wares, follow me and climb the stairs.
Love for sale.

I’ve heard that before. So, this is my plea to Senators Rodolfo G Biazon, Panfilo M Lacson, Jinggoy P Ejercito-Estrada, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago; and to Representatives Edcel C Lagman, Janette L Garin, Narciso D Santiago III, Mark Llandro Mendoza, Ana Theresia ‘Risa’ Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Eleandro Jesus F Madrona:

Please don’t refer to it simply as ‘Reproductive Health.’ And please don’t reduce the whole subject to ‘Reproductive Health and Population Development’ – before you have properlydefined ‘reproductive health’ as well as ‘population development.’ You can’t be intelligent discussing without defining your terms first. You want a debate, I’ll give you a debate. Anytime, anywhere. But first things first. Definitions are premises; we have to agree on the premises first – unless of course you don’t really want a high-minded debate.

What do you mean Reproductive Health?

‘Reproductive Health’ makes it sound like it’s all mechanical, all procedural, all sequential, all logical, and can easily be arranged for by the State providing universal access to all those paraphernalia and prophylaxis.

Who will buy? Who would like to sample my supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price, for a trip to 
Love for sale.

Let’s concentrate on one bill, which I have downloaded (; if you’ve downloaded one, you’ve downloaded them all. And so HB 5043 reduces love to the animal in us. ‘Reproductive’ is so clinical, antiseptically clean. Not my style. Between husband and wife, 5043 looks at it as if it’s all just mating, copulation, sexual intercourse; it’s just between 2 consenting adults. You make love thinking of ‘responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing!?’ 5043 makes it all sound like love is something to be wary of, even to avoid by all means necessary or available. Or to interrupt.

I expected much, much more substance from Lagman, Garin & Co.

Do you think only of sexual intercourse as an animal act, where penis meets vagina? How biological can you get? I don’t want to listen to your ‘Vagina Monologue’ (or ‘Penis Monologue,’ if it comes to that). But if you think of it as making love, it’s beautiful! I know, even if you didn’t. It’s the sweetest thing, if you’re in love. It’s a different story if you’re not. 5043 doesn’t care.

Let the poets pipe of love in their childish way;
I know every type of love, better far than they.
If you want the thrill of love, I’ve been through the mill of love;
Old love, new love, every love but true love.

When I was a bachelor (until 27), I had several girl friends, not necessarily one after the other, and at least 3 others had hard crushes on me, but with all of them I never went beyond. There never was invasion of privacy. That’s respect for the dignity of womanhood. Does ‘Reproductive Health’ really have respect for the dignity of womanhood? Among its 4,400 words, HB 5043 contains neither the word ‘dignity’ nor ‘womanhood,’ and that’s a shame.

RB 5043 purports to be the #1 Gospel of Health for the Filipinos today. Technically, it’s being marketed as the proper ‘national policy.’ Once declared national policy, we have no choice.

It’s Choice, Edcel Lagman says. He is a lawyer and the author of House Bill 5043.
People, it’s 
your Choice, not his.

It’s Health, says Janette Garin. She is a doctor and the main co-sponsor of 5043.
People, it’s 
your Health, not hers.

They make it appear as if it’s all about reproduction. So let’s talk reproduction. By definition (American Heritage Dictionary), in art, a reproduction is a copy of the original. In life, a reproduction is a re-creation of something. In biology, reproduction is multiplying the species. In thinking, reproduction is recalling something. In all of the above, being intelligent about it, you are supposed to allow Mother Nature to run her course. You are not supposed to disturb the reproduction process. If it breaks down, you just have to make it work again. You never tamper with the mechanism. So why do you want to tamper with the human reproduction system?

You don’t really want it to stop being productive. I don’t. I’m very productive myself. I have 12 children, 1 mother.

I never believed in a too-big family size as the cause of poverty. Nor laziness. Nor lack of entrepreneurship. Nor lack of education. I’m not rich; food is always a problem, the education of the children too (3 are in college right now). But don’t tell me there are no rich who have more than 4 children. Don’t tell me none of the rich is lazy. Don’t tell me each of the rich is entrepreneurial. Don’t tell me each of the rich has a college degree. And don’t tell me each of the rich uses either tubal ligation, vasectomy, pill, or IUD (intra-uterine device).

Reproductive health? Believe me, my wife and I tried it. Years ago, when the children were not that many, we tried CI (coitus interruptus) once – and that was the end of it. Why do you do it and then interrupt yourself?! Crazy.

We also tried the prophylactic, more popularly called the condom. It worked, but we found out that the pleasure belonged to the seller of the prophylactic, not to us.

So, I don’t like reproductive health. I’m a healthy male. Interruptus and prophylactic aren’t healthy at all to me.

We considered IUD and decided it was too dangerous. It was also an invasion of the woman’s body, and that was not respecting the dignity of womanhood, was it? We considered anti-fertilization pills too, but we were risk-averse – we were not willing to accept the side effects.

And now let me tell you my own story from the beginning.

In 1967, my wife and I had already been married 4 months and enjoyed every minute of those days, when one day it happened. You make love and don’t expect it to happen? I didn’t. She told me she was pregnant. So soon? I was shocked I was going to be a father. Believe me, I was immature (at 27) and knew it and very clearly suggested abortion: ‘Can we?’ She was more shocked.

My wife has never forgiven me for that. And neither has my eldest daughter, she who would have been aborted – her mother had told her in front of me, in anger. ‘Be angry, but do not sin’ (Ephesians 4: 26 NRSV). Be alarmed if you have to, but do not sin. She’s a big girl now, and has daughters of her own, but to this date there has not been any exchange of terms of endearment between us. She’s in Canada and I’m in the Philippines.

My wife and my eldest daughter are proof that if aborted abortion lasts forever, how long will actual abortion last?

Notwithstanding, I have forgiven my wife for not forgiving. I have forgiven my daughter too. And yes, I confessed it to a priest at least 20 years ago and, yes, while it took still many, many years after that, as it proved to be almost impossible, finally I have forgiven myself.

4 children. Don’t think that my wife didn’t work on me. They were 12 siblings themselves, and she had known the practical difficulties herself. We were already having a difficult time raising just 4 children – I wasn’t a good provider; I wasn’t a proper husband either. She was a writer’s widow; now she’s a computer widow – and also because of sneers and sick jokes from officemates, she kept on badgering me about ‘family planning’ or ‘planned parenthood’ or whatever they called it in those days.

6 children. The advocates of family planning never stop, including during office hours. My wife was working in a government office. So, she wanted to have a ligation. Now, the law dictates that the wife needs the husband’s permission to have a ligation, all things being equal. She knew her law, and respected it; she had worked for 1 year at least as stenographer for a lawyer. Knowing what I knew, I was against the idea. I told her an operation, any operation is an invasion of the body, and the body is not built for any invasion especially like that, tampering with the reproductive system. I said that in pregnancy, the woman’s body prepares for the delivery naturally, slowly in 9 months, in other words, it was much safer, Nature designed it that way. But anyway, I said that if she really wanted it, she can go ahead – ‘You can forge my signature (she could if she wanted to; she was good at it) and I will not complain or go to court, I promise you that. But I am not signing.’

Thank God she didn’t do it.
But that wasn’t the end of it.

8 children. If you want to know if a big family is difficult, ask me. (Or ask my mother-in-law, who is 89; she had 12 children herself, 1 husband. My wife is her 2nd daughter.) Do I have regrets? No. But if I were to live again, I would be a better husband and father.

Life is problematic if you make a problem out of your problems. ‘You go get a vasectomy!’ one time my wife confronted me, subdued but livid. ‘Over my dead penis!’ was my instant reply. She didn’t laugh. I wasn’t joking.

12 children. (Actually, we had 13, but our son Ernest Charles died when he was 10 or 11, ‘fever of unknown origin,’ said his death certificate from the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) in Alabang. He had been brought by Papa and Mommy Buddy and SusanLacuna, family friends, to the Makati Medical Center. RITM was the last resort.) 12 is big, but if you are one, or if some of the elder children help with the younger ones, as has been happening in my family, a big family is welcome to those whose hearts are big enough to accommodate everyone. It is not the number that counts; it’s the love that goes around. That’s what 5043 is ignorant of.

So, you will understand that if I were a legislator, as a matter of national policy, I wouldn’t propose ‘Reproductive Health.’ Instead, I would propose ‘Family Health’ – I consider family as the basic unit of Philippine society (if not your own), not the reproductive woman as in effect identified by those ladies and gentlemen of Congress.

No, health is not only about reproduction. And no, I don’t believe that health is a human right – I believe it’s a family right. ‘Human right’ makes it independent of the family, and I believe in the family. The family is one body. ‘Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but many.’ And ‘God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it’ (1 Corinthians 12: 14, 24-26 NRSV).

What do you mean Population Development?

HB 5043, why do you divorce Development from the Church and the People, and address it only to an amorphous, disemboweled Population? The State’s citizens and the Church’s parishioners are one and the same, so it’s foolish to separate the Church from the State: you are treating each citizen as a split personality.

If you want to reduce the rate of population growth, that’s population underdevelopment, not development. Development can only be national development, and it must mean improvement of the well-being of every man, woman and child; each one must be healthy and productive, even educated formally or informally.

Since ‘Reproductive Health’ talks business, let’s talk about business management. Even if the ladies and gentlemen proponents of HB 5043 don’t put it this way, I can see ‘vision’ and ‘mission’ in the ‘Declaration of Policy’ (Section 2), although they call it instead ‘rationale.’ The Vision is the desired future. The Mission is easy enough to identify as it must be what is to be accomplished in order to achieve that vision. Given that, here is HB 5043 in management terms as I see it:

Vision: ‘Manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens.’ Excellent! I say.

Mission: ‘Responsible parenthood, informed choice, birth spacing and respect for life in conformity with internationally recognized human rights standards.’ Now, this remains to be seen, because, to be intelligent about it all, first we have to define all these terms; here they are, all referring to population:

Those 4 are actually the goals in the Vision: manageability, health, education, and productivity of the population. Now, is each of those goals SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound?

No, sorry, HB 5043 does not define any of those terms that are all very crucial to the Vision. 5043 doesn’t say what it means by ‘manageable.’ It doesn’t tell us what method it will use to measure manageability. It doesn’t give us the list of criteria for measuring manageability. This is an unforgivable intellectual deficiency for a Congressional Bill that wants to advance itself into becoming National Policy.

And no, 5043 is not clear what it means by ‘healthy’ either, how it will be measured and, what’s more, how it can be maintained.

And no, 5043 does not tell us what it means to be ‘educated’ and how education is to be measured and achieved within what period of time, and how to tell if such education is relevant or not.

And yes, 5043 is silent on what is to be ‘productive’ and how it can be measured and achieved within what timeframe.

So, just as I don’t have to look through the whole pile down to the bottom of a big basketful of tomatoes to know that it’s rotten, I don’t have to look at the other sections of HB 5043 to know that it’s lousy.

My conclusion in this little study? House Bill 5043 reduces love to the sexual act. So, in that sense, here’s a song I dedicate to Lagman, Garin & Co (sung by Frank Sinatra, song by Cole Porter, 1930):

Love For Sale 

Love for sale, appetizing young love for sale
Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that’s only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.
Who will buy? Who would like to sample my supply?
Who’s prepared to pay the price, for a trip to 
Love for sale.
Let the poets pipe of love in their childish way;
I know every type of love, better far than they.
If you want the thrill of love, I’ve been through the mill of love;
Old love, new love, every love but true love.
Love for sale, appetizing young love for sale.
If you want to buy my wares, follow me and climb the stairs.
Love for sale.

In and out of HB 5043, all that talk might as well be of love of health, love of development, love of parenthood, love of informed choice, love of birth spacing. Every love but true love.Certainly not the love that 1 Corinthians 13 so beautifully speaks of. So you see, like me, if you happen to be a practicing Roman Catholic, you can’t support House Bill 5043. But if you happen to be a practical Roman Catholic, why are you still?! *

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