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Monday, February 21, 2011

Using the rhetoric of the pro-RH side against the RH bill: Antonio Montalvan's latest salvo

By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Kris-Crossing Mindanao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:49:00 02/21/2011

GIVE A chance to choice before saying anything disparaging about the consolidated “reproductive health” bill that has already passed the scrutiny of the committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives. That was what somebody said among the minority downbeat letters I get every time I write about pro-life issues.

The operative word, however, seems to be the word “before,” which in reality already suffers as a non-sequitur. And that is because “choice” is actually existent. Couples can easily buy condoms over the counter. That goes true with pills. Sterilization, which is an injectable administered to women every three months, can be demanded for free at any government health center.

So where is the need for a “reproductive health” bill? Good question, but I continue to enclose that term in quotation marks. Is it really a health need that puts human vigor and well-being as its primary target? Well, we are fixated with scientific surveys. Why can’t we just stick to the facts?

In this day and age of passion for the environment, when many are going natural and organic, artificial means of contraception appear to be an anachronism. Let science speak.

Among many is a five-year study done by the Environment Agency in the United Kingdom where half of the male fish in lowland English rivers are “developing female characteristics because of pollution.” The BBC, a cable television favorite alongside CNN, reported that “Scientists blame the pollution on a ‘potent’ form of estrogen found in urine from women using the contraceptive pill, which may be flushed through sewage works and into rivers.” In 2002, the United Kingdom declared hormonal birth control a type of pollution.

Biodiversity activists may wish to take a deeper look at the evidence. In the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s Center for Environmental Oncology—the name alone is already indicative of what it does—a research team discovered that fish caught inside the water they were testing “may be carrying enough chemicals that mimic the female hormone estrogen to cause breast cancer cells to grow.”

Why should we be concerned with that? Right to life advocates behind the study aver: “Think about the water you drink. Think about the fish you eat. Could your own drinking water be infested with high levels of estrogen? What kind of effects would take place if we drink water containing high levels of estrogen and eat these contaminated fish?”

What is the democratic choice that “reproductive health” advocates now say must be legislated? First, it is this. It is a choice for women who take the birth control pill, patch and other birth control products who put themselves at risk. What kind of choice is that? Science has already confirmed that the pill can cause a woman to develop deep vein thrombosis which can block the blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack, stroke or death. The clot could also travel to the lungs, which then could result in a pulmonary embolism or death.

Second, science has already established that the birth control pill, patch, intra-uterine device and similar birth control products also work as abortifacients by thinning the uterine lining and making it impossible for the newly conceived child to implant and grow. Even the Physician’s Desk Reference or PDR, the most frequently used reference book by American physicians, and the US Food and Drug Administration which requires drug manufacturers the so-called “professional labeling,” both claim birth control pills have an abortive mechanism by “introducing changes in the endometrium which reduce the likelihood of implantation” of a newly fertilized human being.

Third, the hormones in the contraceptives are partially absorbed by the body of the woman who consumes them. The residue ends up in our wastewater, which causes hazards to the environment and ultimately to those who consume the water. It goes without saying that it is like bringing cancer direct to the dinner table.

These studies have been replicated by researchers in the South Platte River and Boulder Creek in Colorado as well as in Puget Sound in Washington State in the last 10 years. Similar studies at University of California-Long Beach, the US Geological Survey study done at the Potomac River, the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick, all say in unison: estrogens cannot be completely broken down by sewage treatment. Yet here we are in the Philippines completely oblivious to what the evidence says. We must be out of touch with the rest of the 21st-century world.

Consider these from the consolidated “reproductive health” bill: “The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information and education thereon even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children, among other underprivileged sectors.”

A section of that proposed bill specifically identifies “modern” artificial birth control methods and devices that the Philippine government ought to subsidize and their access legally enforced, as namely, “hormonal contraceptives,” “intrauterine devices,” “injectables,” and “others” because they are arguably “medically safe and effective, pro-poor and affordable, rights-based.”

Pray tell us—unless we are as dense as not to understand the fine print—where is the ethics there? Where, oh where, are the human rights? Where is the sustainability to human development?

Surely it should not take sophisticated legalese to complicate the answers.

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