Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poor Choices?

"Oh no! It costs 2.50 per text. Only people with cash will be able to vote."

If there is one thing that adherents both for and against the proposed RH bill have agreed on lately, it's that they both lack the resources to make themselves heard.

Why is there this mad rush to plead poverty? Is it because we believe that any claim to the moral high ground begins with a low savings account balance? How does such a position encourage reasonable discussion on an issue that is already too emotionally charged to begin with?

One does not need to be poor in order to identify with the poor.

I remember an interview that John Malkovich gave for the movie, Places in the Heart, where he played a blind man. The interviewer marveled at how Malkovich was able to portray a blind man so realistically.

"How did you prepare for the role?"
"I looked for places in my life where I was blind, and then...I was blind."

One does not need to be poor to sympathize with the poor.

More importantly, maybe we should stop talking on behalf of the poor and start listening to them.

We should ask them what they think they need more. Would they rather have more access to reproductive health programs? Or would they rather have more opportunities to escape poverty?

People on both sides of the debate have tried to link the two questions together, which is a valid approach towards putting the reproductive health issue in context. But if we are really concerned about what the poor think, maybe we shouldn't begin by linking the questions together. Maybe we should begin by asking what the poor prefer to have.

The reproductive health issue is more than about providing choices. It's about freedom and responsibility. The poor should be free to decide.

Watch Harapan RH Bill