MANILA, August 14, 2012?”Trabaho na, personalan pa” (This is not just work, this is a personal matter).
This was how Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III described yesterday his fight against the controversial “reproductive health” (RH) bill, as he delivered a speech that suddenly turned emotional.
Sotto, the RH bill’s strongest critic in the Senate, fought tears and struggled to contain his emotions as he bared in public that he lost his second child years ago because his wife, actress Helen Gamboa, had taken contraceptive pills.
“[Si Helen], nabuntis pa rin kahit gumagamit ng contraceptives. That’s why I know,” Sotto said after discussing the numerous health risks posed by the use of artificial contraceptives.
Sotto said his second child, Vincent Paul, was born March 13, 1975 with a weak heart, and needed blood transfusion every day.
Vincent Paul was left behind at the Makati Medical Center even as his mother Helen had been discharged. The baby died five months later on Aug. 13, 1975, 37 years ago today.
That he was coincidentally delivering his speech on the same date as the death of his son Vincent Paul was not lost on Sotto, who was supposed to make his turno en contra last week but was prevented from doing do by torrential rains and flooding that crippled Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The senator said he wanted to share his own sad experience during the interpellations on Senate Bill 2865 in October last year, when Sen. Lito Lapid revealed that his wife had given birth to a “blue baby” after taking contraceptives. Sotto also noted that Sen. Pia Cayetano had lost a child due to miscarriage.
Lapid was lucky as his child lived for nine years, Sotto said. “Yung anak ko ni hindi ko nahipo. Nahawakan ko patay na” (In my case, I did not even get the chance to hold my son until he died), the lawmaker added, his voice cracking.
Breast cancer, decreased libido
The turno en contra is a Senate tradition allowing opponents of a bill an opportunity to explain at length their position, in the same manner that a bill’s sponsor delivers a sponsorship speech.
Sotto bared the numerous health risks posed by hormonal contraceptives, notably the findings of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the use of birth control pills causes breast, cervical, and liver cancers. The pill was kept by the WHO agency on the list of Group 1 carcinogenics last year.
Under the RH bill, the government will spend billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money for a nationwide program to distribute contraceptives such as pills, the intrauterine device (IUD), injectables, and others.
Various studies have linked the pill to premature hypertension, coronary artery disease, thromboembolism, and pulmonary embolism, aside from decreased libido, leg cramps, bloatedness, nausea, and others, Sotto said. The IUD, meanwhile, can cause bleeding even without menstruation.
Aside from these, the fetus inside the womb of a mother who had taken contraceptives is in danger of being exposed to toxins. Pills could lead to gut dysbiosis or gut imbalance induced by drugs, which a mother could pass on to the baby, he said.
The government should also allot money to cure these diseases if the RH bill is passed, Sotto argued.
When life begins
Sotto also explained why the RH bill is connected to the issue of when life begins, showing videos of babies and even the moment of fertilization, or when sperm fertilizes the ovum to create human life. The Constitution is clear that the State must “equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” he said.
The lawmaker pointed out that pills are not 100% effective in preventing a woman from ovulating and that there was at least an 8-10% chance of ovulation. In the event of ovulation and fertilization, chemicals in the pill render the womb hostile to the fertilized ovum, which is then expelled.
This is why pro-abortion groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation have long sought to redefine the beginning of life as happening at the point of implantation, or when the fertilized ovum sticks to the uterine wall, rather than at fertilization.
“Hormonal contraceptives act as abortifacients. Ovulation and conception can still occur despite the pill’s intake,” he said. “The morning-after pill no longer prevents fertilization, it prevents implantation,” he added.
For the IUD, it’s clear that the prime mechanism is to prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum. “There is an appliance in the womb that prevents it from doing so,” Sotto said.
He asked: “Anong karapatan natin na magsagawa ng batas para mag-distribute ng pills na papatay sa mga inosenteng buhay? Ito lang ba ang solusyon?”
Sotto vowed to unmask the motives of lobbyists behind the bill as well as debunk the oft-repeated statistic that 11 mothers die every day because of childbirth. Sotto said he had asked for data from hospitals nationwide and said the numbers being peddled were wrong.
He reminded his colleagues that the Senate has historically been the battleground on which foreign interests sought to dictate national policy – citing the parity rights debate and the failed bid to extend the US bases treaty.
“[The RH bill] is dictated by outside forces, cultures, and philosophies,” he said. “The RH bill violates Philippine sovereignty, the Constitution, and existing penal laws. It is detrimental to the health of the mother … It transgresses Filipino culture and family values.”
“It is not necessary, not beneficial, and not practical to our people,” he added. (Dominic Francisco)