Monday, January 19, 2009

Ignorance Breeding Misery

Have you ever seen miles of shanty towns full of garbage and squatters? or mothers living with their children on sidewalks, carefully packing up their cardboard pieces during the day and bathing their children with buckets of water in front of everyone driving by at the snail's rate dictated by the traffic congestion? or street children aggressively begging in groups, playing in the street naked, or taking up glue-sniffing? or the ocean floating with garbage at a beach resort? Do you know any engineers with three young children whose salary can only afford a tiny cement dwelling where the water goes out for months at a time?

I've seen all this in the Philippines. Tuberculosis and various unpleasant tropical ailments are extremely common there. The poverty is such that many mothers give their children cola to drink instead of milk because it costs less (and the water would just make them ill); as a result, their children's smiles are full of triangular-shaped teeth due to tooth decay. Woman with unwanted pregnancies often turn to questionable black-market pharmaceuticals to try to end the pregnancies themselves.

There is a law being drafted right now in the Philippines that won't force anyone to use family planning, but it will facilitate the spread of correct information on the subject and making family planning materials available. Is it really in anyone's interest for a squatter mother to give birth to ten* closely-spaced, unhealthy children just because she has no access to information and means for safe birth control? Children who will die early or go on to live in squalor and neglect and most likely turn to crime and prostitution when the government handouts of rice no longer suffice?

According to a recent article, there is large--82%--public support in the Philippines for the subject of the family planning law. I hope that means the law will pass.

* Lest the reader think I'm against people having many children, I'm from a family of ten children myself. My mother was able to space us in a healthy way, so she and we are still alive. In fact, we are all now college graduates or will be within a year and contribute much to society.

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