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MANILA, Philippines – This time there were no tears. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday hit back at critics who challenged him to produce the death certificate of his infant son whose death 37 years ago he had blamed on the contraceptives used by his wife, Helen.
In the second of his 4-part turno en contra on Wednesday, Sotto also: cited studies about the alleged serious risks to women and babies of pills and other contraceptives; exposed alleged foreign—primarily US---dictation that pushed birth control as a key policy; and disputed statistics on maternal mortality rate cited by RH bill champions, specifically the oft-cited 11 maternal deaths daily, saying the correct figure is just half of that.
He said the statements issued by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin in reaction to his Monday speech---marked by his weeping when he revealed how he lost his first son at five months old---are callous and insensitive.
“It is unfortunate that the reproductive health debate has come to this level. They should have given the sorrow of my family more respect,” Sotto said in his opening statement on his privilege speech.
Sotto said his wife Helen used a pill called Diane under the supervision of a doctor accompanied by his mother, Dra. Herminia Castelo Sotto.
“Diane po ang pangalan ng pills na ginamit ng aking asawa noon. Supervised po siya ng doktor habang ginagamit nya ito. Intelihente naman po ang asawa ko, alam niya kung paano gumamit nito. Malinaw po ang sinabi sa amin ng kanyang doctor, katuwang ang aking ina, Dra. Herminia Castelo Sotto, ** na ang pagbubuntis niya kahit may contraceptives ang maaring naging sanhi ng kumplikasyon, prematurity at eventually pagkamatay ng anak namin. Bakit ko po iimbentuhin ang katotohanang ito?” he said.
Last Monday, Sotto tearfully recalled the death of his son, Vincent Paul, 37 years ago, who was conceived even though Helen used contraceptives. He blamed the contraceptives used for the complications—the boy, who had a weak heart, stayed in the hospital from the time he was born until he died five months later.
Side effects on humans
Sotto said conclusive studies published in some literature cited the harmful effects on the health of infants when mothers used contraceptives as his wife did.
“Meron naman din po na mga pag-aaral na makakapagpatunay na mayroong masamang epekto ang contraceptives sa kalusugan ng mga bata na pinanganak ng mga ina na gumagamit ng contraceptives. Ito po ay pinatototohanan ng mga pag-aaral at hindi ko imbento lamang [There are studies showing the adverse impact contraceptives have on the health of children born to women who had been using the pills. The studies bear me out and I didn’t invent these],” he added.
Sotto cited the book, “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women, Exploding the Estrogen Myth” by Barbara Seaman, which stated that those who take pills but still got pregnant have more chances of having abnormal children or children with lower I.Q.
“In a cohort of 50,282 pregnancies, 19 children with cardiovascular defects were born to 1,042 women who received female hormones during early pregnancy (18.2 per 1000). Among 49,240 children not exposed in utero to these agents there were 385 with cardiovascular malformations (7.8 per 1000). Six children with cardiovascular defects were born to a subgroup of 278 women who used oral contraceptives during early pregnancy (21.5 per 1000). After the data were controlled for a wide variety of potentially confounding factors by multivariate methods, the association between utero exposure to female hormones and cardiovascular birth defects was statistically significant,” Sotto said, quoting the book.
No intrusion, just serious scrutiny
In the first part of his speech last Monday, Sotto said that contraceptives are abortifacients, pose health risks to women and may even expose them to serious health problems and death. He claimed they have harmful effects on children born to mothers who were using contraceptives but still got pregnant.
“To those who are riled by what I’m saying, please just answer my points one by one and don’t attack my person on Facebook or Twitter. They say so many things without understanding my points. Some people even sound threatening. If drug lords did not faze me, what more these critics. The first part of my turno en contra was quite mild, and yet they hit me this way?” Sotto said, speaking in Filipino.
He said he has no intention of encroaching on the private family life of every Filipino, but just wanted, as an elected official, to scrutinize and study all possible implications of the bill.
“I just want to clarify that I am not against the use of contraceptives in the Philippines, nor [wish to] prevent its use. I also have no intention of interfering in the private lives but as lawmaker, I am obliged to scrutinize, examine and study the bill, its implications not only on today’s generation, but also the next generations,” Sotto said.
“Given all these repercussions, would we still want to take the risk and brush aside all the probable deterimental effects of these family planning supplies and devices by passing, without scrunity, the RH Bill?” he added.
Sotto also exposed the alleged key role of international organizations, in collaboration with the government, to contrive a demand by highlighting population per se as a problem, and then supply the supposed solution: an RH bill.
“I will prove that this bill has been significantly influenced by various organizations, both local and international, which are of doubtful character. They have been pushing for the passage of this bill to serve their ulterior motives far-off from the aims of the proponents of the bill,” Sotto said.
Sotto cited the statistics sourced by the proponents of the bill from data gathered by the National Statistics Office on Philippine 2008 National Demographic And Health Survey, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which funded the DKT Project, the largest manufacturer of condoms in the world, in India.
“The USAID, for the information of the body, is the agency which the United States uses as its principal instrument to control and reduce the population through birth control worldwide. It is also the same agency which funded the DKT’s project. Dhramendra Kumar Tyagi or DKT is the largest manufacturer of condoms, pills and other contraceptives,” Sotto said.
The statistical materials used by NSO in the said survey, he added, were provided by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) to support their position.
“But as correctly pointed out by Senate President Enrile, the Guttmacher Institute came into existence as the marketing arm of Planned Parenthood in 1968 and has masterminded the public manipulation of reproduction in the United States, promoting abortion, sterilization, and amniocentesis and genetic screening, as well as foreign population control. The Institute is predisposed to a particular line of attitude in relation to population and birth, and that is to control population and not to deal with health concerns,’ Sotto said.
'Wrong data' on maternal deaths
Sotto also disputed statistics presented by RH bill advocates, including Sen. Pia Cayetano, that there are 11 maternal deaths every day in the country.
“The September 2010 report of the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank, estimated annual maternal deaths in the Philippines at Two Thousand One Hundred (2,100) in 2008,” Sotto said.
“That is equivalent to 5.75 deaths a day, which is way off from the 11 per day. This was clearly down from the 2000 level of Four Thousand One Hundred (4,100), or 11.2 a day, which was published in a report seven years ago by the same international agencies,” Sotto added.
Sotto said the proponents’ population projections and maternal mortality ratios (MMRs), or deaths per 100,000 live births, came from a census conducted 11 years ago. “The UN Population Division’s estimates were released just recently and, therefore, should be more reliable.”