Some four years ago, while getting our marriage license in Manila, we had an opportunity to be part of a mandatory seminar for couples regarding “family planning”. It was a requirement before the City issues that vital legal document that legitimizes a union.
Beng asked the nurse/facilitator if it was possible to skip the seminar since she’s a practicing physician anyway, and she herself gives these kinds of seminars to communities. Unfortunately, her request was denied. We were told that what we were going to attend was not just a “seminar” on reproductive health. It was much more than that.
And so we went to the City Health Department and seated ourselves near a TV, together with other couples. They were going to show us a short film. It was a documentary about the “evils of abortion”. The whole seminar was laden with religious undertones, you’d think it was your local parish priest, and not the City government, who was giving the seminar.
After the film, the nurse asked the audience what family planning method they would use. One couple made the “mistake” of saying that they planned to use pills for contraception; a big no-no as far as then Mayor Lito Atienza was concerned. The honest answer elicited a frown from the facilitator. “Naku, ayaw ni Mayor Atienza ng pills,” was what she said.
The preferred family planning method of the Manila City Hall is the mucus method. You have to attend the seminar to find out how that works.
We’re we given an informed choice during the seminar? Not really. Did the couples come out any more knowledgeable and responsible than before? I doubt it.
First off, the framework of the whole seminar was wrong. The starting point of the seminar was “abortion is evil”. Will saying that make people responsible parents? Is that how you enlighten people on the issues of reproductive health? Will saying “Ayaw ni Mayor ng pills” contribute to people’s knowledge on health issues? The seminar didn’t really teach us anything much and only highlighted the prejudices or biases of the City Mayor.
And to think they did that in City Hall everyday since it was a requirement for getting a marriage license.