Back to the Basics

by Mary Jacquiline Romero

Alam ko na sukang-suka na ang marami sa atin sa RH Bill. Hindi nakakatulong ang kamakailang plagiarism ng isang senador at mga pagbabanta ng heresy laban sa mga sang-ayon sa RH bill mula sa ilang miyembro ng Simbahan, diin sa ilang. Habang marami ang umaabala sa mga isyung ito, nais kong bumalik sa pangunahing layunin ng RH Bill: “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011.” Sang-ayon ako na kailangan para sa pag-unlad ang responsible parenthood at reproductive health. Sang-ayon din ako na ang overpopulation ay suliranin. Ang pagpaplano (o di pagpaplano) ng pamilya ay personal na desisyon ng babae at lalaki, walang pasubali sa kung ano ang meron o wala sa batas. At kagaya ng anumang desisyon na ating gagawin, mahalaga ang pagkakaroon ng sapat na impormasyon. Ang impormasyon na ito ay isa sa mga pangako ng RH Bill. Ipinapangako rin ito ng Magna Carta para sa mga kababaihan, RA 9710, Sec. 17, na noon pang 2009 ay naipasa na. Sinasabi ko ito hindi para batikusin ang RH Bill, sinasabi ko lang ito “as a matter of fact.” Kung babasahin ang Sec. 17 ng Magna Carta, madaling makita na malaki ang pagkakatulad ng layunin ng dalawa — isa na ang pagbibigay ng kapangyarihan sa mga kababaihan na pamahalaan ang kanilang sekswalidad at pertilidad. Maliwanag na nakasaad sa RA 9710 na ang Estado ay magbibigay ng:
(17.a.3) Responsible, ethical, legal, safe, and effective methods of family planning;
(17.b.3) Ethical, legal, safe, and effective family planning methods including fertility awareness.

Enough legislation facts. Ang totoo ay hindi malaking bagay sa akin kung maipasa man o hindi ang RH Bill. Ang pagpapasya sa mga ganitong bagay ay hindi produkto ng kung ano ang nasa batas, kung hindi produkto ng kamalayan ng nagpapasya. Ang mga makakaapekto sa ating kamalayan ang mas mahalaga, at ang mga ito ay iba-iba sa iba’t ibang tao.

And so rather than make my vote, pro- or anti-RH bill, I will just say my piece on how my husband and I came to our strategy with regards to family planning. There is a logical, foolproof measure to prevent pregnancy: absolute abstinence, not having sex at all. Unfortunately, this strategy is too stringent and bad for everybody’s libido. We need to be sexually satisfied too, so I do not recommend absolute abstinence to anyone. Fortunately, a woman ovulates only once a month and is not fertile all days of her life, a fact I know from high school biology. If I have intercourse, avoiding the days when I am fertile, I do not have to worry about unplanned pregnancy for all eternity. Easier said than done!

I have one son, from an unplanned pregnancy. I thought finishing my PhD before having a child was for the best (I have since changed my position to quite the opposite, but that’s another story). Clearly, something went wrong. Identifying the fertile days correctly is the challenge, and our calendar-based methods (which are very convenient as it is simple arithmetic) prior to my pregnancy was clearly not effective. I should have expected that in a way, because I know that my menstrual cycle can be irregular at times. After giving birth, I really took “predicting when I am fertile” seriously. I researched extensively and narrowed my options to three, inferring my fertility by monitoring basal body temperature, the crystals in my saliva, and my vaginal mucus. I did not find convincing patterns consistent with a menstrual cycle from the first two options (I could be wrong of course, maybe I just did not try hard enough). For the last option, my husband and I met with a professional fertility consultant (she helps couples to get pregnant or not get pregnant). She taught me how to observe my mucus correctly, and how to chart my observations effectively. It took time, but with her help, I can now pin my fertile days to three to five days each cycle. I found our meetings really helpful because aside from focusing on the physiological details, she emphasises the role of the partner. At the end of the day, when to have or not have sex is a mutual decision, and the cooperation of the partner is necessary. This method has worked for us because we both understand that self-control is necessary during the fertile period. My son is now nearly three, no siblings yet. And the good news is, if we decide we want to have a next child, this strategy is also effective for conceiving.

Our strategy is based on the scientific fact that a woman has a narrow fertile period, and hence, so long as this remains a fact, I am confident that this strategy will work for everyone. It requires a certain mindset though, which may conflict with the idea of freedom of some of us. For me, being free is being master of myself, my desires included. This strategy will not work for any other definition of freedom. If the clergy is really serious in opposing the RH bill, they should put more effort in promoting natural family planning methods (fertility-awareness-based, I hope!), and they should start with presenting this view of freedom to their flock. That is better than hurling threats of heresy, or resorting to ill-formulated arguments. It is time to go back to the basics, and as a Catholic myself, this piece is my little contribution.

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