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In the Philippines, another assault on the integrity of marriage

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 11, 2013

Under the new “reproductive health” law approved by legislators in the Philippines, couples would need a certificate of compliance from local family-planning officials in order to obtain a marriage license. I’m still waiting for the howls of protest from liberals who want to “keep government out of the bedroom.”

The law in the Philippines—which will take effect unless the country’s top court finds it unconstitutional—puts the government squarely in the middle of discussions about family size. Those family-planning officials are charged with helping couples to “achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood.” If you’re wondering what that means, the answer comes at the end of the same sentence, with a directive to “encourage them to have two children as the ideal family size.”

Clearly the intention of this bill is not to allow contraception; it’s to enforce contraception. Couples who dare to have 3 or 4 children are not actually classified as outlaws—yet—but they will undoubtedly be subjected to mounting pressure, as the government fields a team of busybodies to inquire about their contraceptive use. Ann Roback Morse of the Population Research Institute argues persuasively that the coercive intent of the new law could make the Philippines “the next China.”

How did the government usurp the right of parents to make their own decisions about family size? Since time immemorial it has been understood in all but the most repressive societies that married couples are free to bear children—that the government has no rightful say in their child-bearing decisions. Now that fundamental right is under open attacks.

In the US (and other Western nations), the attack is coming from a different direction, with the drive to re-define marriage. If the government can change the meaning of marriage by fiat, then the marital bond, traditionally recognized as a license to reproduce, is only as strong as the latest trend in political opinion. You are married if the government says you’re married; you may have children if the government grants permission. Your marriage, your family, your children are not properly yours, but the gifts of the state.

In the Philippines, if the repressive law goes into effect, social workers might try to remove children from the home of a large family, reasoning that the parents had created an unhealthy atmosphere by having many children. The law, stipulating that the 2-child family is ideal, would look with favor on the argument that couples with many children are unfit parents.

Now in the US, what would happen if tomorrow the government proclaimed that your marriage was invalid? (Is that preposterous? We’ve already been told by many American legislatures and courts that marriage doesn’t mean what we always thought it meant.) You might suddenly be forced to fight for custody of your children, and the law would not necessarily be on your side. If the government controls your marriage, the government controls your children as well.

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  • Posted by: garedawg - Jul. 12, 2013 10:52 AM ET USA

    Of course, the libertarians will use this as an argument for the government getting out of "the marriage business" altogether, including restrictions on same-sex unions and polygamy. They will say: "If the state cannot regulate how many kids you have, then it cannot say who can and who cannot adopt."

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