MANILA, September 11, 2011—One of the Senate sponsors of the controversial “reproductive health” (RH) bill admitted Tuesday that statistics being used by pro-RH advocates are merely “extrapolations” and are therefore not exact.
Tuesday’s floor debates brought into the open how pro-RH lobbyists have been calculating the supposed number of abortions in the country, which Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago claims is at 570,000 annually.
Under interpellation by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Santiago—a sponsor of the RH bill—revealed that the figure came from 2008 extrapolations by the Guttmacher Institute and the UP Population Institute.
The New York-based Guttmacher Institute is the former research arm of the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion services in the US.
Loopholes in computing abortion statistics
To arrive at the total number of abortions in a year, Santiago said the Guttmacher methodology simply multiplies the number of women hospitalized for complications due to abortion “by a factor of 6 or 7.” She did not explain how the so-called multiplier was derived.
“In other words this may or may not be true,” Enrile said, to which Santiago replied in the affirmative.
“But to imply that they were pulled out of thin air is unfair,” Santiago said.
The Guttmacher paper in question, available publicly on the Internet, estimated 3.371 million pregnancies in 2008—out of which 17% (573,000) supposedly led to “induced abortions.”
Guttmacher claimed that based on hospital records, there were 90,000 admissions in 2008, which means the multiplier used by Guttmacher was between 6 and 7 to produce an inflated figure of 573,000 induced abortions—easily half of abortions in the United States, where abortion is legal.
During the debates, Enrile pointed out that Guttmacher made the extrapolation based on data from way back in 2000, or more than a decade ago.
A check on the methodology of the 2008 extrapolation showed that hospital records were not really examined that year. The methodology states: “Numbers of induced abortions by region, 2008: We applied the regional number of induced abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–49 in 2000 (the most recent data available) to the numbers of women aged 15–49 in 2008.”
The 2000 data is contained in the older study “The Incidence of Induced Abortion in the Philippines: Current Level and Recent Trends,” also by Guttmacher and UP.
That study, published in 2005, claimed 78,901 women were hospitalized due to abortion complications across all regions in the country. Multiplying it by a factor of 6 inflates the figure to 473,408 – the supposed level of induced abortions in 2000.
Relied on anecdotal evidence, indirect estimates
The older study, however, admits having “limited information” on the prevalence of abortion, as it relied on “anecdotal evidence” and a 2006 survey of health workers which merely “suggested” that about one in four women with abortion complications needed to be hospitalized, or a multiplier of 5.
To account for improvements in the “safety of abortion” over the years, Guttmacher and UP simply adjusted the inflation factor to between 5 and 7.
Even the figure attributed to hospital records is extrapolated or merely based on “indirect estimates,” it turns out. A total of 2,039 hospitals were identified, but usable reports were obtained for only 1,658.
For 1,180 hospitals, the study merely assumed that “the number of women admitted for abortion complications was half the number of patients admitted for the 10th leading cause of admission.” Nearly 400 hospitals did not even have data at all, but were nevertheless assigned 6,000 supposed hospitalizations.
Guttmacher’s 2008 methodology, meanwhile did not consider factors known to reduce maternal mortality or even attempt to get more reliable counts.
Santiago defended Guttmacher on Tuesday, saying: “Apparently they have a track record of reasonable accuracy.”
Tuesday’s debates saw a calmer Santiago, who even used the word “opo” to answer Enrile’s questions.
‘11 mothers die everyday’ a PR phrase
In contrast, the other RH sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, was visibly irritated by the Senate President’s queries, which she dismissed as “repetitive.”
“Don’t teach me how to interpellate,” Enrile said. “Don’t teach me how to answer,” Cayetano replied.
Cayetano and Enrile clashed over the oft-repeated statistic of 11 maternal deaths a day, which had been found to be based on old data but is now being attributed by the pro-RH lobby to the maximum estimate by government statisticians.
The World Health Organization (WHO) placed maternal deaths in 2008 at just 5.75 a day.
In an apparent admission that “11 a day” is only for public relations purposes, Cayetano said: “‘11 mothers die everyday’ is a phrase used by NGOs to drive home the point.”
Enrile appealed to the pro-RH lobby not to take him to task for questioning the data used to push for the RH bill, saying he was doing so only to place the entire issue in the records of the Senate.
To recall, pro-RH lobbyists last month waged a social-networking demolition job on Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who questioned the basis of the “11 a day” statistic.
“I want to make sure that statistical numbers used for the possible passage of this bill are beyond doubt,” Enrile said. (CBCP for Life)