The International Herald Tribune documents the situation of Delia Paje, mother of 10 and living in a Mandaluyong slum with her family. Paje was meant to illustrate the raging debate between the Philippine government and the Catholic church on the issue of birth control.
At the center of the debate is the assertion by officials and economists that the Philippines’ rapid population growth is threatening to counteract whatever economic gains the nation makes.
The church, which forbids contraception like condoms and the birth control pill, accuses the government of twisting the facts. There is no population explosion, it said. Blaming the population growth for the country’s poverty, the church maintains, is disingenuous. [IHT]
Then the report goes on to expound on the issue by bringing forth arguments that clearly shows that the raging battle goes beyond population control.
I think it is myopic to argue against birth control by simply saying that if economics can provide, then there is no reason why a couple cannot have a new baby each year until the woman goes on menopause. Such an attitude cannot be more wrong. See, responsible parenthood goes way, way beyond the capacity to provide for the material comfort of children. It encompasses the quality of attention and care that parents can provide. Time, physical, mental and emotional energy and exhaustion, AND economics are all factors.
Parents may have the money but how much time and energy can they allot to each of, say, 10 children? Unlike priests who are assured of three square meals a day, clothing, a roof over their heads, etc., parents must earn a living in order to provide for their families’ needs. Very few of us are heirs and heiresses who only need to withdraw the monthly interests from our trust funds. Between jobs, chores at home and caring for every child, what consideration does the church give to the physical limitations of parents?
Let’s go even deeper. The church assumes that as long as there is money, 10 kids are okay. With parents working all day to assure the steady supply of money, who takes care of the children, especially the young ones in their formative years? Does the church condone delegation of parental responsibilities to grandparents, relatives or even to total stangers like yayas? Is that its definition of responsible parenting?
Another step deeper. Let’s consider the yaya angle. Same scenario. Parents working their butts off to provide for 10 kids. Three, four, five or more yayas and househelps are hired to care for the kids in their absence. Problem solved? Well, it may be a solution for the parents. But, consider the church’s argument that a sound economy is the answer. Where do the yayas and the househelp figure in all that? Will there be yayas and househelp, as we know them in Philippine culture, if it were not for the fact that there are people who are unable to finish their education (read: poverty) and thus end up with such jobs? Is the church, therefore, talking about a sound economy only for the middle and upper classes?
Finally, there is the scenario where, in a boom economy, the income of one parent can comfortably support the family. As far the church’s reasoning goes, this is the ideal scenario because the woman can stay home and care for the family. Well, that takes care of the needs of everyone except the wife-mother, doesn’t it? What happens now to her right to pursue her own interests and grow as a person? Is she doomed to a life of domesticity because she was born without a penis?
It is a sad fact that priests who, with the exception of a few, have never experienced parenthood, much less experience being parents to 10 children, should presume to think that they know better than parents in that very situation. It is even a sadder fact that priests–who have never experienced pregnancy, the pains of labor, breastfeeding, sleepless nights and the emotional and mental strain of caring for sick children 24/7–should presume to know the effects of having too many children on the emotions and psyche of a parent.
Enough said. For now.