I come from a devout Catholic family and studied in a grade and high school that was non-sectarian (secular) but run by Opus Dei, a conservative organization in the Catholic Church. In my freshman year in high school I was taught sex education for a few weeks during Health class. The sex ed portion was eventually scrapped because of some complaints from parents.
My whole family staunchly opposes the Reproductive Health bill and wholeheartedly supports the ordinance. My mom and I both attended the public hearing last Saturday, but she was on the pro side — I was on the anti side. I’m pretty much the only one in my family that is for the RH bill and against the ordinance — and yes, it can get quite lonely.
In light of last Saturday’s public hearing on Barangay Ayala Alabang Ordinance 01-2011, I would like to share with you this letter I mailed to the barangay chairman on how the ordinance is anti-woman and supports a culture of reproductive oppression. This letter was supposed to be my 5-minute speech but the format of the hearing was changed and I could not deliver it.
21 March 2011
CHAIRMAN ALFRED XEREZ-BURGOS
Barangay Ayala Alabang
Narra St, Ayala Alabang Village
Dear Mr. Xerez-Burgos,
Many women may feel the same way I do about Barangay Ayala Alabang Ordinance 01-2011 and some of them cannot speak for themselves because they are scared of how society will brand them. I am writing this letter on behalf of these women and oppose Barangay Ayala Alabang Ordinance 01-2011.
For my entire life, I have been blessed to live in a country where I can receive a university education, choose a career, and participate in elections. I can wear whatever I want and I am not required to cover myself head to toe in cloth. Arranged marriages are a thing of the past – I can actually choose my own husband and I can marry when I please. I have been so privileged compared to my female ancestors, but one thing that has not changed is that I still live in a culture of reproductive oppression.
I believe this ordinance will continue to uphold this culture of reproductive oppression instead of eradicate it. By censoring the sex education I and other residents in this village would like to receive, I will be deprived of my right to learn about my sexual rights. The first time I heard about sex was in 5th grade, in a conversation with classmates. The school I attended for my elementary and high school education forbade sex education to be taught. My mother did eventually tell me about sex, but again, it was very limited. I have learned about the process of conception but I have yet to arm myself with the right information to protect myself from sexually transmitted infections, defend myself from unwanted sex and sexual harassment, or avoid pregnancies. When this ordinance is passed, it will become illegal for me to learn about birth control – other than natural means – in the confines of this barangay. I will continue to be a victim of dishonest sex education.
In this day and age, I believe it is my right to plan my pregnancies in the way that I choose, through both natural and artificial means. Yes, I included artificial birth control because I do not share the same sentiments you have. I believe that women deserve to be in control of their bodies and to exercise their own conscientious choices when it comes to reproductive health care. We have the right to all the information we need to make decisions about sex. This barangay institution, which is meant to safeguard and provide care for its residents, will systematically block women from being fully informed.
Mr. Xerez-Burgos, what offends me the most about this ordinance is that it aims to damage my reputation when I go to the drugstore to purchase birth control and a logbook has to be filled out with my private information that is nobody’s business and certainly not the barangay’s business. I will be labeled as an abortion practitioner if I use FDA-approved non-abortive contraceptives. Is this the 17th century where my information in this logbook will essentially become a scarlet letter, a badge of shame that will be pinned on my person? And because most artificial contraceptives were created to be used by women such as birth control pills and intra-uterine devices, the reputation of all women who choose to use artificial birth control will be in danger.
This ordinance upholds a culture of reproductive oppression against anyone who can get pregnant: women. This oppression is unfortunately scarily invisible, even to us who experience it, because it continues to be normalized and institutionalized. Being raised a devout Catholic without any reliable or scientifically accurate information about birth control or sex, thereby risking my health and the health of my future children, is a form of oppression. Needing a prescription to purchase a condom, is oppression. Having my decision to use artificial birth control judged as abortion is oppression. Being treated with hostility and shame for using artificial birth control is oppression. Not being able to get proper sex education from the barangay is oppression.
I oppose this ordinance because I believe the lives of women matter.
I oppose this ordinance because women should have the right to decide when and if they get pregnant, give birth, and raise children – not the barangay, nor the Church.
I oppose this ordinance because I believe that the right to control your own reproduction is a fundamental right and is protected under the Constitution and basic human rights ideals. I believe that the fundamental right includes the right to prevent pregnancy and the right to get pregnant, whether through natural or artificial means.
I oppose this ordinance because I do not believe that anyone should be legally compelled to expose their sex lives to the public.
I oppose this ordinance because I realize that my rights to birth control, to have children, and to make my own decisions hinge on my basic ability to decide when and if I reproduce.
I oppose this ordinance because I do not believe that people should be criminalized for exercising reproductive freedom and freedom of speech.
I oppose this ordinance because I am a woman and women deserve better.
Mr. Xerez-Burgos, thank you in anticipation of your kind consideration and I look forward to your reply*.
[*} Republic Act 9485 (2007), also known as the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, mandates that public officials must respond to letters of citizens within 5-10 days from receipt with a report on the action taken on the matter. This is to promote integrity, accountability, proper management of public affairs and public property.
The image used for this article was printed on shirts anti-Ordinance advocates wore at the public hearing. It was created by Julian Rodriguez.