Friday, September 26, 2008

Global Conspiracies on Reproductive Health, Population and Development: What It Means for Filipinos

A well-meaning historical account of the supposed global population control movement threads together eugenics, racism, imperialism, feminism and humanitarianism gone wrong. There is a supposed global conspiracy, which began over a hundred years ago and which, as certain Filipinos now suggest, continues today. It is then suggested that those who support the Philippines' Reproductive Health Bill be made aware of such a history, of "how the reproductive rights movement began and where it would lead." Is this the "hidden agenda" of a national policy that would consolidate already-existing government initiatives? A national policy which would provide the services for which Filipinos express a need? A national policy which is not in any way coercive, but would provide choices for Filipino families to take control of their own lives?

If we go by accounts of how movements and ideas are born, then history is replete with examples of what we now deem as heinous and unjust practices perpetrated by humans to each other. The birth of modern medicine, as well as a host of other sciences, has seen numerous inhuman experiments conducted in the name of modernity and progress.

The introduction of Christianity in the Philippines, and the role played by the Catholic Church can likewise be seen in a problematic light. The early nationalist movements and our very own national hero, Jose Rizal, recognized this. Once the concept of an all-seeing, all-knowing God was introduced to pagan and animist Filipinos in the 16th century, this became a mechanism of control over the native population. The fear of offending the Christian God, and enduring eternal damnation in hell was a more effective weapon than wielding swords or firing muskets. Indeed the expansion of the Christian faith worldwide is a history as bloody as any.

And yet today we think not of doing away with doctors or scientists and the contributions that modern medicine and science have made to improve the quality of life. We think not of condemning Christians and the Catholic clergy for the sins committed in name of ideas and institutions of the past.

Historian Michael Connelly, author of Fatal Conception: The Struggle to Control World Population, focuses his archival research on the supposed confluence of interests of Malthusians, racists, eugenicists, imperialists, environmentalists, feminists, public health advocates and international organizations in a global conspiracy to control global population. If this shadowy network, in operation for more than a hundred years and funded by multibillionaires and rich-country donors, were truly bent on keeping non-whites from reproducing, then two-thirds of the world's population in 2008 will not be either Indian or Chinese.

In the latest surveys, 92 percent of Filipinos think it is important to plan a family. Almost 9 in 10 think it is important that the government provide budgetary support for modern methods of family planning. Filipino families are having more children than they can support with the respect required of a truly dignified life. Risky abortions, committed mostly by married mothers in their thirties, occur because there are no options and information on safe and reliable family planning methods.

The economic and developmental exigencies aside, Filipino families have expressed the need for family planning services as a first step to lead a just and quality life. Those who choose to ignore the glaring reality of this need and who insist on global conspiracy theories to mar the simple and functional purpose of the Reproductive Health bill need to take off their ideological blinders and take note of Mr. Connelly's advice; the fatal misconception is "to think that one could know other people's interests better than they knew it themselves."

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