Formal debate announment


Direct, we beseech you, O Lord, our actions by your inspiration, and further them by your gracious assistance, that every word and work of ours may always begin with you, and by you be likewise happily ended.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Be it resolved: There is a clear relationship between population growth and economic growth.

Affirmative side: Robyn Yves of The Atheist Freedom Wall

Negative side: Abraham V. Llera

Opening statement: 4,000 words each side
First rebuttal: 4,000 words each side
Second rebuttal: 4,000 words each side
Cross examination 4,000 words each side of 5 questions
Closing statement 4,000 words each side

Opening Statement: In by Mar 6
Rebuttal: In by Mar 13
Five questions: In by Mar 20
Answer to Five Questions: In by Mar 27
Closing: In by April 6



I do not write this note for the opportunity to suggest you do something silly like random suicide.
I write this note because I respect your intelligence. I write this note because like you, I am "pro-life" or more accurately I am "pro quality life," something that is lacking in our country.

This is where we stand

We are the 12th most populous nation in the world with a fertility rate of 3.03%.
We are 5th on the Global Hunger Survey, 40% polled have experienced involuntary hunger.

Forty-four percent (44%) of our population earn less than $2 /day and 66% of the population are engaged in unsustainable environmental and natural resource usage.
The lack of employment opportunities here has led to 11 million OFWs
From 1903 to present, we have grown to 94 million and left only 10% of our forests and coral reefs. The lack of good environmental policies has left water pollution unchecked.

I'm sure some of you will agree, based on those statistics we're in deep shit. Our financial and environmental resources are stretched thin. On an economic perspective, overpopulation is looming and there is a real need for non-coercive, non-invasive population development program. At the heart of a good population development program, is a good reproductive health program that empowers women to control their own childbearing.

What happens if we don’t implement a population development program within the next years

Our government may pull a miracle and reduce poverty rates within the next years through sensible economic policies and good use of foreign aid. Without a decent population development program, reduction in poverty rates will not mean reduction in the total number of people living in poverty. Within the next years, with or without a change in poverty rates, our country will have more poor people living under $2 a day.

Population-Poverty Nexus

People living in poverty can rise to the middle class when provided with education, sound health and good employment and business opportunities. However, this rise is primarily buoyed by expansion in education and health services. With more people to educate and to take care of, the government (or more accurately, the nation) will find it more difficult to provide these services. An exploding population, much like ours, will need rapid expansions of education and health systems. You and I can agree that we are not succeeding.

For the fiscal year of 2010, the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and the state universities and colleges have been allocated P185.5 B, while the Department of Health has been allocated 24.65 B. If our population grows at our current fertility rate, in 30 years, we will be a nation of 150 million and we will need to spend twice as much on our education and health systems. Only time will tell if our economy will be robust enough to provide us with such financial resources.

Some of you may argue that instead of looking at our labor force as a liability, we could turn it into strength, like India, a country who hasn’t been successful in implementing its population development programs.

Investing in human resources is investing in quality education and health. Without the expansion of much needed health and education services, we are damning the next generation of Filipinos to be less competitive, less educated, less healthy and more susceptible to chronic poverty. Pervasive corruption and dismal public policies are contributing factors and the additional number of children to educate and take care of is making the problem worse, not better.

Even with minimum corruption and sensible government policies, the more children we have on a weakened economy, the less our chances are at making the next generation contributing citizens and the less our chances to develop an economy that can sustain us.

India is not a success story. Eighty percent (80%) of the Indian population lives on $2 a day and 41% of the total population lives on $1.25 a day.

Why we need a Population Development Program / Reproductive Health Program

It’s more common to hear economists touting there is no relationship between population growth and economic growth, a contrast to the neo-Malthusian theory of previous decades.

However, new evidence shows that the Neo-Malthusians may have been on to something. A study by Thomas Merrick on population and poverty concluded:

“Family planning alone will not necessarily reduce poverty in developing countries, but neither will many of the present models of economic development. On the other hand, a slower rate of population growth, combined with sound and equitable economic development and the reduction of gender inequality, appears increasingly likely to achieve that goal.

While fertility decisions are a private matter, there is a role for public policy. In an increasing number of countries, public and private providers are enabling women to choose when and how many children they will have, by providing information and safe, effective means of fertility regulation. In cases where the health system fails to do this or when there is an imbalance between the individual and the social costs of reproductive behaviors, public policy needs to address these failures by improving the information and regulatory environment. Additionally, when cost is an obstacle to effective fertility regulation by poor women, subsidizing services may be an appropriate approach.

In sum, fertility and family planning do matter for poverty reduction—for poor households and for poor countries. They are not the only, or even the most important, factors in poverty reduction. The topic has been a controversial one, and critics have reacted to statements that exaggerate the links between fertility and poverty by minimizing or denying them. Thus, it is important that policymakers understand the new evidence supporting the view that lower fertility does contribute to poverty reduction, and that public policies that help poor people better manage their reproductive lives have societal as well as individual benefits.

Lower Fertility Rates is not the magic bullet to poverty. It is a critical factor in economic development and poverty reduction that should be considered when making economic policies. Lower fertility rates provide the opportunity for the country to acquire economic gains. Countries unable to lower fertility rates or do not make public policies to empower women to control reproduction exacerbate economic problems.

Martha Campbell of the Bixby Center states "No country, with the exception of a small number of anomalous oil-rich states, has gotten out of poverty while maintaining high fertility rates."

Why the Government needs to fund Family Planning / Reproductive Health or have public policies for Reproductive Health.

During the 1990s when the Neo-Malthusian theory was being discredited, family planning was mostly left as a private decision which the private sector will address without need for government intervention.

However, this “private” decision is mostly dependent on the woman to control her reproduction. Both neo-Malthusians and its critics failed to account that a women’s control over childbearing is affected by factors such as “the sheer unavailability of contraceptive supplies and services in some parts of the world; cultural and religious opposition to birth control, which often inhibits free individual choice; the high cost of many contraceptives relative to family income; and women's unequal educational and social status in most parts of the developing world.” (Merrick 2002)

If a woman is unable to overcome these limiting factors to control her childbearing, she effectively has little reproductive freedom.

Women in the country and all over the world with little reproductive freedom will most likely give birth to more citizens susceptible to poverty.

“High birth rates may reflect not only the survival calculus of the poor, but the disproportionate powerlessness of women as well.” (Lappe & Schurman 2000)

Poverty marginalizes women. Poor women tend to have higher fertility rates. High fertility rates tend to deprive the next generation of investment and that in turn causes poverty.

Lappe and Schurman note the shifting and cyclic relationship between fertility and poverty, “in the social perspective it is the realities of poverty that lead to both rapid population growth and hunger. High fertility becomes an effect more than a cause of poverty and hunger.”

Families unable to meet their desired fertility rate will make less financial investments per child. A family with one child can invest as much as P5,558 while a family with nine children can only invest as much as P682. Health spending per capita also drops from P1,700 to P150. (NDHS 2003). When parents make less investments to a child's education and wellbeing, the child becomes more susceptible to poverty.

Human Capital Investment & Family Size (eta, 2/22/2011)

Fertility - Poverty association

The Unmet need for Contraception and Family Planning

Family Planning is not about having 2 children per family or the government coercing families to have 2 children only. Rather, it is about meeting the desired fertility usually with considerations on the family’s resources.

Sixty one percent (61%) of women do not want additional children and 50.6% of the youth wants only to have 2 children. Only half of married women practice family planning. (NDHS 2003)

The average desired fertility rate for the Filipino woman is at 2.5. Our current fertility rate is at 3.03.

Clearly, there is an unmet need for family planning or birth control.

The Poorer have an average desired fertility rate of 3.1 - 3.8. Total Fertility Rate is 4.6 - 5.9: a difference of 1.5 - 2.1 unintended children
The Middle Class have an average desired fertility rate of 2.6. Total Fertility Rate is 3.5: a difference of 0.9 unintended children.
The wealthiest have an average desired fertility rate of 1.7 - 2.2. Total Fertility Rate is 2.0 - 2.8: a difference of 0.3 - 0.6 unintended children.

Larger families among the poor is an indication that the family has not met the desired fertility rate because there is no access to family planning or contraceptives.

Poorer women have as three times more children than wealthier women. The unmet need for contraception is 23.15% for poorer women and 13.6% for wealthier women.

Twenty two percent (22%) of the poorest childbearing women want to avoid pregnancies but do not use any family planning method. At least 41% do not use family planning methods due to lack of information. (Family Planning Survey 2006).

"In the Philippines, large differences in contraceptive use exist by a woman's education. In Thailand where family planning is easy to obtain, these differences have evaporated. It is often assumed that uneducated people want large families, but the data suggest that they have more children because they are unable to surmount the hurdles society puts between them and the birth control they need." (Potts, 2000)

Many of you anti-RHB crowd are laboring under the misapprehension that RHB curtails your freedom to reproduce. It doesn’t.

The consolidated Reproductive Health Bill idealizes a fertility of 2, but it does not mandate or coerce fertility rates. It doesn't need to. These statistics tell us there is considerable number of women in the country who want to control their reproduction but cannot do so because they lack resources or information.

Why not financially friendly campaigns like withholding information, abstinence, NFP, etc

Because what the conservatives prefer isn’t working in reality.

The consolidated Reproductive Health Bill does not discriminate between modern contraception, abstinence or NFP. However, in the interest of promoting “morality”, conservatives (like the Roman Catholic Church) would prefer withholding information, abstinence and NFP over modern contraception. I have discussed that marginalized women lack information and resources and consequently, lack control over their reproduction.

This lack of communication and reproductive education which our culture has heavily practiced to curtail youth interest in sex and promote abstinence has been ineffective and unbeneficial. It also hasn't empowered women.

The NSO notes for 2004, almost 8% pregnancies have mothers aged 15-19. Almost 30% of Filipino women bear a child before reaching the age of 21. Four million Filipinos aged 15-19 engaged in sexual intercourse and half of them are from poorer families with no knowledge of reproduction or contraception.

An alarming 1 out of 4 teen mothers stop schooling to find jobs. In 2007, approximately 2% of women aged 15-19 got pregnant with their first child. (USAAID, 2007)

Lack of information does not impede sexual experience and prevent early pregnancies.

NFP is more applicable as a spacing method when a couple has had one child. With perfect use, NFP has a failure rate of 2.9%. In practice, it is 24%. Studies done locally and internationally show natural methods including NFP “is not for everyone.” NFP also “fails to address private and social costs of mistimed and unwanted pregnancy.” (Pastrana, Harris 2011)

NFP has been heavily promoted by the government and the church because it doesn’t cost anything. Despite the long years of attempting to make it a standard, NFP has only a usage rate of 6.4% (LAM 0.4%). The Withdrawal Method has a greater usage rate of 9.8%. (NDHS 2008)

The Current Deal: Low Contraceptive Prevalence and High Number of Unintended Pregnancies

While 97% of Filipinos believe in the importance of controlling fertility, contraceptive prevalence in the country is only 50%, very low compared to Singapore (62%), Thailand (72%) and Vietnam (76%).

Birth Control / Contraception Usage (NDHS 2008)

This unmet need for birth control puts women at risk for unintended pregnancies. Three out of 10 Filipino women at risk for unintended pregnancy do not practice birth control and these women make approximately 7 out of 10 pregnancies.

In 2008, women not using modern contraception account for more than 2/3 of unintended pregnancies. Women who practice modern contraception account for only 8% of unintended pregnancies. In contrast, women who practice traditional methods (NFP) account for 25% of unintended pregnancies.

The same year has 1.9 million unintended or mistimed pregnancies with 55% of mothers giving birth sooner than they intended to and 45% did not want a pregnancy at all.

Unintended pregnancies put both mother and child more at risk for inadequate medical care, maternal morbidity, abortion, fetal death and lower quality of health of mother and child.

Maternal Morbidities for Unintended and Intended Pregnancies

In 2007, over 200,000 maternal deaths (unintended pregnancies) could have been prevented through effective contraception. There is an estimated 400,000 maternal morbidity cases each year.

In 2008, miscarriages accounted for 3,700 maternal deaths and an estimated 1,600 are unintended pregnancies. Approximately 1,000 women died as a result of abortion and 90,000 women were hospitalized for complications.
The lack of maternal care do not improve women’s health and the health of their children.

The DALY (disability-adjusted life year) is an internationally used measure of the years of productive life lost to death and disability from disease and other health conditions. In 2008, Filipino women lost an estimated 311,000 productive years of their lives due to conditions related to pregnancy and birth—167,000 DALYs were due to intended pregnancies and 144,000 were related to unintended pregnancies. This loss of productive years of life is greater than the annual loss among Filipino men and women from traffic accidents or diabetes.

Poorer women tend to receive less prenatal/neonatal care than wealthier women, have less chances of acquiring a skilled medical professional to help with delivery and have shorter birth intervals. Spacing births for 2 years or more increases the mother and child’s survival. Medical care increases a child’s survival as much as 3.6 times.

Despite abortion being illegal, women with scarce financial resources opt for abortion. An estimated 500,000 abortions were done in 2008. Seventy-two percent (72%) of women cite economic costs of raising a child, 54% do not want an additional child and 57% report their pregnancy was “too soon. ” (Singh et all)

Women using no method and traditional methods account for 89% of abortion cases

Why we need Modern Contraception and Funding

With traditional methods failing to be a standard despite years of government campaign, it is only logical not to discriminate and promote all methods of contraception especially modern contraception, make every method accessible and let couples or childbearing women decide which ones to use to increase contraceptive prevalence.

Increased contraceptive prevalence decreases fertility rates; addresses the need of women to have lower fertility rates

Increased prevalence of accessible and effective contraception and information decreases the number of unintended pregnancies and consequently, the number of abortions. Modern contraceptives prevent approximately 112 million abortions in the developing world each year. (Singh et al, 2009)

At least P5.5 B are spent each year in health care costs for managing unintended pregnancies and its complications. Increased contraceptive prevalence lowers the number of unintended pregnancies and costs for medical care.

abortion and contraception trends in Kazahkstan

Government funding to meet the needs of contraception and information of marginalized women is important. Lower unintended pregnancy incidence means healthier women, children and society in general. It’s also less expensive and less problematic for the state in the long run.

Minimum Health Care Costs for Unintended Pregnancies

Why we need a Reproductive Health Law

We need a Reproductive Health Law because

1. providing reproductive health care will make women, children and society healthier.
2. with all the modern advances, there is no excuse for high maternal death rates or for women and children to have lousy health when prenatal and neonatal care is possible.
3. there is an unmet need for family planning information and resources.
4. it’s the heart of a good population development program, which is a key component in economic development

My dear anti-RHB brothers and sisters, isn’t improving the welfare and health of our nation a moral thing to do? We're truly in neck-deep shit. What we're currently doing, leaving women marginalized, unempowered and unable to control their own bodies, is not only harmful to women, it is harmful to children and to our country.

If you are truly "pro life", I urge you to reconsider your stance in the light of these information.


Yours truly,

Thanks to Francis and Christene for volunteering as 'sounding boards' of sorts. @Francis, couldn't put comparative data there. If there's nothing to do next week, I'll make a note on the population-economy trends of ASEAN countries or make a humungous chart.

Comments are welcome, especially those who do not support the RHB. What we need are civil discussions, not insult sessions.

disclaimer: not my ideas. everything I've learned was stolen from
1. Pastrana, Quintin & Lauren Harris, "Demographic Governance and Family Planning: the Philippines’ Way Forward," Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability: University of California, Berkeley. (Feb 2011)
2. Merrick, Thomas. "Population and Poverty: New Views on an Old Controversy," Guttmacher Institute. (Feb 2011).
3. Lappé et all. "Poverty and population growth: lessons from our own past," (Feb 2011)
4. Darroch et all. "Meeting Women’s Contraceptive Needs in the Philippines," Guttmacher Institute. (Feb 2011)
5. Lappé, Frances & Rachel Schuman, "Taking Population Seriously (excerpt)" Googlebooks. (Feb 2011)
6. Campbell, Martha. "Why the Silence on Population," Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability: University of California, Berkeley. (Feb 2011).
7. Dennis S. Mapa & Arsenio M. Balisacan. "Population-Povery Nexus," Commission on Population. (Feb 2011)
8. other statistics taken from Wikipedia, NCSO webste, Department of health website, Dept of education website, USAID website
9. New reading for the clowns who don't have the brain fluids for statistics:

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