Intolerant of Intolerance

Civil rights are not a matter of religious opinion or personal preference. If you seek to deny others their civil rights, you are a bigot.

Scientific facts are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. If you seek to deny others—especially your own children—education, then you are denying them a basic human right. And if you disbelieve in science despite the evidence available and reasons apparent, you are suppressing truth and spreading disinformation.

Your choice

Reproductive Health, sex education and science education, divorce and gay marriage—these are all civil rights issues. Denying others their choice is denying them their civil rights. In contrast, allowing other people their civil rights—specifically Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage—does not curtail your own freedom.

  • If you want to refuse the health and economic benefits of contraception and responsible family planning and if you stubbornly believe that an abstinence-only approach works despite evidence to the contrary, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse to believe in sex education after learning all the facts and if you refuse to believe in the science of evolution and natural history after learning all the evidence and how it is the foundation to understanding and making sense of this world, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you disagree with certain music, literature, or other forms of art because of their message, then you can simply choose not to watch or listen. That is your choice and your loss.
  • If you refuse divorce and want to stay in abusive, loveless, and failed relationships, or if you want a priest to have the power to refuse you annulment of your marriage, that is your choice and your loss.
  • If you want to miss out on your friends’, your siblings’, or your children’s joyous weddings simply because they are gay or lesbian, that is your choice and your loss.

None of the proposed laws on Reproductive Health and sex education, divorce and gay marriage will stop you from voluntarily practicing your religious beliefs.

But what I cannot abide by is when you seek to deny others their right to Reproductive Health, sex education and science, divorce, and marriage equality before the law regardless of gender. That is simply oppression. That is simply bigotry. My friend, my kin, I do not want you to be a bigot.

Nor do I want you to prejudice your own children. Your children are individuals, guaranteed to have the same civil rights and choices as everyone. They should not be denied the information, the education, the science, the rationality, and the access necessary to make their own responsible choices when they come of age.

Science and reason are not a matter of religious interpretation or parental prerogative. These are truths that all people—even children—have a right to access, which are a necessity for making responsible and informed decisions.

Education is a basic human right. It is wrong for parents to keeping their children ignorant or misinformed about sex education, literature, philosophy, evolution, natural history, cosmology, plate tectonics, and other fields.

Sex education needs to be taught at schools by professionals trained for the job. Evidently, Filipino parents have failed to educate their children about sex for generations. For many Filipino parents, the only thing they fear more than the possibility of their children (and younger siblings) having premarital sex is confronting them about it. Most youths learn from the media and their peers. Just as abstinence-only policies have failed to foster responsible parenthood, so have ignorance-only policies failed to foster young adults who are empowered about their reproductive rights and responsible about sex. The Reproductive Health bill and Sex Education are necessary because the status quo has evidently failed us.

Truth is truth and it is not for religious schools nor home schooling parents to subvert. There should be no exceptions to any religious institution as to how sex education or even mandatory pre-marriage counseling (as already required under the existing Family Code) is conducted or implemented.

We should love our children regardless of who they were born to be or what personal informed choices they make as adults.

Full Disclosure

I confess, I don’t discriminate. I have friends and family who are either gay, lesbian, separated, together from previous marriages, single mothers, etc. I may not know exactly what it is to be in their place, but I do know what it is to be friend and family. It means standing up with them against prejudice. You can’t be friends or family to someone while denying them equal rights.

I confess, I myself come from the majority in the Philippines. I was born to a Roman Catholic family. I even belong to the currently unfairly advantaged sex; I am a straight man. On the other hand, I am a minority in one crucial aspect; I do not need government help to afford responsible family planning or access information about my reproductive rights like most Filipinos. Many Filipinos do, hence the need for the Reproductive Health bill. And it is a dire need. The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The Reproductive Health bill only seeks to provide the poor the same choices and information that the wealthy Filipinos already enjoy, nothing more. But why should

I, a straight guy from the middle class, care about the civil rights of others? Because a republic isn’t just about the rule of the majority. It is also about respect and tolerance for all, most especially minorities, even ones whose lives you disagree with or cannot comprehend.

I confess, I do come from another kind of majority: the majority of Filipinos who support Reproductive Health, are tolerant of gays and lesbians, and are understanding of the realities and complexities of married life. This despite most Filipinos being Catholic.

I confess, it comes easily for me to support Reproductive Health, divorce, and gay marriage because these do not threaten the sanctity of life, the sanctity of my marriage, or my manhood for that matter. I was born this way, and nothing can change that. It is not a choice; my gender is a pillar of my identity. And evidently that is the way for all. Oppression can only drive a person to hide their identity, not change it, as centuries of repression have failed to change people’s genders. People will be who they are, regardless. People will love who they love, regardless. However, being a bigot wouldn’t be me. It is not natural for anyone to deny others equality. More importantly, supporting civil rights not only frees the oppressed, it frees the oppressor. There is no neutral in the battle between right or wrong. Those who fail to act and testify against wrongs committed to others are accessories and accomplices to it.

I confess, there are beliefs and lifestyles among the people whose civil rights I defend that I do not share. But I also know that neither agreement nor understanding are necessary. None of us owes anyone an explanation when we all are in the constant process of self-discovery and realization. Even the ones we have loved for years constantly surprise us. We do not need anyone else’s permission to be ourselves. We only owe it to each other to tolerate one another, to allow one another the freedom to pursue happiness.

So what about your beliefs? Shouldn’t these be tolerated as well? Not if they impose on the lives of others. You just can’t claim that your religious sensitivities are offended every time you disagree with someone so you can shut them down.

It was your choice to be offended, not theirs. They are just being themselves. For as long as they are not forcing their choices on anyone and are not spreading hate, violence or lies, all people have a right to be who they are. Do not deprive others of the same freedoms you enjoy.

Science and Reason

Before you criticize, oppose or support anything, know and read about it. It seems obvious, but many apparently don’t.

With the Reproductive Health bill, opponents criticize it by claiming it “legalizes abortion” and “imposes an ideal family size.” Read the bill in its entirety and know that it says nothing of that sort. In adherence to the 1996 Philippine Constitution, the Reproductive Health bill reiterates its support in protecting the health of the unborn.

Then they claim that some forms of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and “morning-after pills” that prevent conception even a few days after unprotected sex are also abortifacients. IUDs and morning-after pills work by not only preventing fertilization—the fusion of sperm and egg—but also implantation—the adherence of the embryo to the wall of the uterus. American and British laws define the beginning pregnancy and the conception of human life at implantation, hence the classification of IUDs and morning-after pills as contraceptives, not abortifacients.

Doctors, bioethicists, law experts and theologians of several religions define implantation as the beginning of human life for several reasons:

  • The ability to create embryos in vitro (such as in test tube babies fertilized outside the womb) has proven that fertilization does not automatically result in pregnancy. Only after implantation does an embryo’s existence have an effect on the mother’s body. It is only upon implantation that a fetus receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother to grow into a human being. It is at this point when the fetus cannot survive except within the woman’s body. Any rights granted to it must come at the expense of the pregnant woman. Note that to be pregnant—which is to be implanted—means risking one’s life for nine months to bear a new one.
  • Majority of fertilized eggs do not go on to become infants. With unprotected sex, embryos are often formed that never undergo implantation. If fertilization were to be defined as the conception of life, then countless souls have been killed without knowledge or intent.
  • After fertilization and implantation, an embryo can segment to become identical twins—separate and distinct individuals who, despite their similarities, develop their own personalities, experiences and decisions and possess their own unique DNA, fingerprints, etc. If segmentation defines the start of an individual with an indivisible soul, then an embryo prior to the stage of possible segmentation cannot be defined as an individual.

Some even make the ridiculous claim that every sperm is a life. If that is so, then every act of sex is mass murder since the millions of sperm in ejaculated semen all die save for the single one that successfully fuses with the egg cell to form a fertilized embryo. And that’s if fertilization occurs. Often no sperm succeeds at fertilizing the egg and most fertilized eggs do not go on to be infants.

Those who cite “natural” family planning-only policy fail to note that it has simply failed to work despite years of implementation.

Those who cite the cost of implementing Reproductive Health avoid considering the cost of not implementing it: the cost in lives, in health and the economic cost of building more hospitals, homes, schools, jails, and cemeteries on a finite amount of land.

Those who see the Philippines’ environmentally unsustainable population growth as a positive fail to mention that natural resources are finite and that even renewable resources diminish when abused beyond their capacity to recover.

Worse, they see the Philippines’ unsustainable population growth as the solution to declining populations in industrialized countries. Migration has already robbed the country of its talent. Work overseas has already broken so many families apart and exposed so many Filipinos to racism and abuse. Nonetheless, the Reproductive Health bill does not in any way stipulate any means or programs of population control. It only provides the masses choices and information already available to the privileged in the Philippines.

Showing One’s Character

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health not only oppose IUDs and morning-after pills but also contraceptives that only prevent fertilization and not implantation. They oppose condoms—the only contraceptive device that protects against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS as well as accidental pregnancies. They also are against sex education and knowledge empowerment of young adults. Their definition of conception is but one of many arguments used against all of reproductive health, responsible parenthood, and gender empowerment.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health continue using the false specter of “abortion” and “population control” for disinformation and fear mongering despite these being clearly absent in the bill. They also question the science behind it and imagine fantastic conspiracies.

Tellingly, those opposed to the Reproductive Health do so despite the fact that the bill simply affords the poor the same choices and information that wealthy Filipinos already enjoy. These opponents who rabidly denounce the bill had curiously stayed silent for the many years that their privileged class enjoyed these same choices and information.They claim to be “pro-life” but they do not want to foot the bill to truly alleviate poverty, uplift the lives of the masses, and empower women regarding their choices in a meaningful, long-term manner. Charity donations and other public relations and tax deduction gimmicks during holidays and disasters evidently do not substantively alleviate poverty.

Tellingly, those who claim contraception promotes promiscuity ignore that accidental pregnancies, premarital sex, and corruption have long been rife in the Philippines despite 400 years of conservative Roman Catholicism, first forcibly introduced by the rapacious Conquistadors during the time of the murderous Spanish Inquisition. Four hundred years of Inquisition-era Catholicism has evidently done little to make “Good Christians.”

Tellingly, this alarm at liberties already enjoyed by some spreading to all characterizes not only those who oppose Reproductive Health but also those who are against gay marriage, divorce, science education, and sex education as well.

Tellingly, those who denounce gay unions and divorce for supposedly defiling the sanctity of marriage were curiously silent for the decades that spousal abuse, arranged marriages, marriages for convenience and appearances truly made a mockery of the institution.

Tellingly, those who see sex education and science education as a threat to their “prerogative” as parents don’t see inculcating their own religious beliefs upon their children as an imposition.

Tellingly, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education and sex education tend to see themselves as devoutly religious, rejecting any facts that run counter to their beliefs.

Tellingly, when engaged in discussion and debate, those who oppose Reproductive Health, gay marriage, divorce, science education, sex education, and other civil rights sometimes comment derisively, “masyado kang matalino (you are too smart).”

Tellingly, Church authorities have threatened those who support Reproductive Health with expulsion from Catholic institutions and excommunication, the same sentence they meted out to famous truth-tellers such as scientist Galileo Galilei who insisted that the Earth revolved around the sun as evidenced by his telescope, Martin Luther who exposed the corruption within the Church as it sold indulgences that“absolved”the wealthy of all their sins for a fee, and Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal who exposed how priests used religion as a tool of oppression by engendering unthinking docility and submissiveness.

Tellingly, those against Reproductive Health include a plagiarist, the unapologetic family of the late Ferdinand Marcos, ousted dictator who instituted corruption in the Philippines, and the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has been accused and convicted of endemic sexual abuse of minors and well as the systematic and leadership-sanctioned coverups of these cases.

Tellingly, those who are anti-Reproductive Health and anti-gender-equality have wished us ill and even dead. We have endured name calling and threats, disinformation and fear mongering. Anti-Reproductive Health zealots also see natural disasters and misfortunes as collective and indiscriminate punishment, as if those who were most affected deserve it. And yet when the same misfortune falls upon them, they see it as a divine test. In many aspects of their thinking, they lack both rationality and compassion.

Tellingly, we who support civil rights continue to engage in argument, dialogue, and debate. To attempt to communicate is to presume intelligence and humanity in one’s opponent, hence this message.

Nonetheless, the time is upon us when we all must come to a decision that determines our character and our relations. Will we be bigots and truth deniers, or will we be emancipators and truth-tellers? Will we be opponents, or will we be friends and family? I simply cannot tolerate bigots.

 
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.

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