President Aquino’s recent announcement that he would be pushing forward with the reproductive health (RH) bill has set off a firestorm of reactions from various sectors, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), a representative of which has threatened Aquino with excommunication.
What follows is the text of a keynote address delivered by former First Lady Imelda Marcos on January 7, 1974, at the First Asian Regional Conference on Family Planning. Pro Pinoy is posting the speech in the hope of stimulating discussion not only on the current controversy, but also on the history of population control in the Philippines. It may be of interest to note that Mrs. Marcos, a Catholic who led the move toward population control during the Marcos regime, has yet to be excommunicated.
The Moral Dimensions of Family Planning
It is my pleasure to keynote this Asian Regional Conference on Family Planning of the Medical Women’s International Association. I can think of nothing more appropriate and timely to usher in World Population Year 1974 than a regional conference on family planning. Allow me therefore to welcome to Manila our neighbors from the Asian region and our distinguished guests and speakers to this inaugural activity of our world population year program. I hope you will find your stay both fruitful and pleasant.
The Malthusian solution to its own nightmare was—after abstinence—war, famine, and pestilence. We know now that this is no solution at all, as war, famine, and pestilence are the consequences of the population explosion.
Our modern technological civilization has, therefore, devised the technique of planning and control.
We are moved, as B. F. Skinner has said, to depend on our strength, which is technology. Thus population planning and control originated as a proposition from among the rich nations of the world, nations which have benefited and are benefiting most from technology.
Some cynic has said that population planning and control is advocated for the poor peoples by the world’s rich in order to preserve their stability and insure their comforts. For if the world’s poor were to increase beyond measure, the rebellion of the poor will explode and imperil the security and well-being of the world’s rich.
And, going farther, not us but the philosophers of the technological civilization have pointed out that a shift in the thinking of rich nations can, without great effort, convert their resources and technology for feeding, clothing, and housing all the peoples of the world. The expenditure in arms and space technology could have been, it is said, redirected to the welfare of all mankinds [sic] on earth.
For developing nations like the Philippines, the planning and control of population is of fairly recent awareness. For nations such as ours have experienced the painful reality of economic growth being cancelled out by a high rate of population increase. Our rate in the Philippines is among the highest in the world. It is for this reason that we have taken the Western proposition for our own fundamental end—that of survival. As President Ferdinand E. Marcos has emphasized again and again, we need to depend on ourselves.
And so we pursue our population programme with enthusiasm and vigor, aware nevertheless of traditional ways and mores of our people.The main thrust of our programme is education, basically the re-orientation of our people to the complexities of modern life. Only in the Philippines do you find a tri-partite cooperation among the government, the private sector, which includes the religious organizations, and international agencies concerned with population control. We have adopted the technique in order to avert diffusion of time, effort, and resources.
Education, not just pills and other palliative measures, is the crying immediate need. Government alone cannot succeed. The help of the private sector, specially of the religious organizations, is most critical.
In a week we inaugurate the Population Center building where such cooperation of hte private with the religious, government, and international organizations involved in population control will be formalized and housed.
We must say that for the most part it is the Filipino male in the Philippines who holds the key to family planning. Traditionally, the Filipino looked to the child-bearing of his wife as a matter of prestige or male pride, while both husband and wife looked to many children as an assurance for their old age. And so children were born in expectation of a form of bondage, for in exchange for their rearing they should take care of their aging parents.
I hold no strong brief against this attitude. It is one of the charms and proof of compassion of Filipino family life. But it is anachronistic in an age of social security.
We need to understand now that we bear and raise children because we love them, not for any economic or selfish reason.
Thus, if there were in the West political, social, and economic considerations in advocating population control for the poor peoples of the world, for us, in the Third World, the primary consideration is moral.
Large families living in squalor strain the moral sense. Our experience of greed, graft, and corruption has largely been the consequence of large or even many families. Numbers have ethical implications: the qualitative change in the moral perceptions of a man who proceeds from three children to ten or more is rather evident. Aggression comes from pressure and population pressure, indeed, arouses the aggressive instincts of men.
But more than this negative moral sanction is the positive one. To plan, to abstain properly, or to take measures breeds discipline and manifests maturity. Though we may learn that creature comforts await us at the end of the discipline, we are more exhilarated by the fact that we accept the responsibility for our own lives, that every step we take is the result of ethical deliberation.
The boons of population discipline will take, at least, a generation or two to be felt and enjoyed by all. But the spiritual well-being that comes from the knowledge of self-abnegation and planning is immediately felt. Thus, we say that family planning leads to other forms of planning—to economic, social, and even political planning.
We are at present involved in making a new society, a society that is compassionate no less than disciplined and progressive.
We are aware that family planning is one of the pillars of the new society, undertaken not because we want to protect the wealth of the few against the explosion of the poor, bunt undertaken because we do not want to condemn unborn generations to misery and servitude.
We want children because we love them, and because we love them, we want, as far as possible, the best for them, spiritually no less materially. But too many of them will surely diminish our love and deflect our attention: too many of them will strain our moral capacities. This I feel is the moral dimension of family planning in the Philippines.
On this note, I welcome all of you to our country and may your seminar prove fruitful, may your discussions bring forth new insights and new ways of promoting the great moral change that will protect mankind from unregulated fertility.
To all of you, thank you.