‘Stop hysterics, apologize for misleading lawmakers,’ pro-RH lobby urged

LOBBYISTS PUSHING for the “reproductive health” (RH) bill should apologize to lawmakers for supplying them with misleading statistics found to have been based on outdated studies, a pro-life group said Wednesday.

Pro-RH groups seem to be skirting the issue by resorting to tired appeals to emotion and below-the-belt attacks on those questioning the “11 maternal deaths a day” statistic, Filipinos For Life (F4L) said in a statement.

F4L said there was no intention to belittle maternal deaths, pointing to earlier statements referring to solutions like more birthing centers and health workers, which can be done without the RH bill.

“Questioning the data peddled by pro-RH groups RHAN, Likhaan, and DSWP is far from belittling the problem of maternal deaths. The issue at hand is the pro-RH lobby’s emotional and exclusive use of ‘11 maternal deaths a day’ to scare lawmakers into spending billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money for its contraception and sterilization agenda,” it said.

Pro-RH groups have long attributed the statistic to foreign entities like the Guttmacher Institute and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), but have apparently switched to data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) now that new studies have shown a substantial decline in maternal mortality since 1980, F4L pointed out.

Maternal mortality ratios or MMRs (maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) published April 2010 in the respected journal The Lancet, as well as latest estimates by the World Heath Organization (WHO) and the UNFPA, now yield a range of 3 to 8 deaths a day, F4L said. This is based on 2.28 million estimated live births, derived from 2010 UN population projections which closely mirror the latest available Philippine census data (2007).

The drop in average daily maternal deaths is due to the 81% plunge in mortality between 1980 and 2008 as reported in The Lancet study by researchers from the University of Washington. The WHO and UNFPA, meanwhile, found a 48% drop in maternal mortality from 1990 to 2008 in a September 2010 study.

RHAN, Likhaan, and DSWP, however, used a bloated estimate of 2.5 million live births derived from 11-year-old census data, and only NSCB maternal mortality figures, to produce a range of 6.5 to 11.1 deaths a day. But only the figure ‘11’ is being fed to the public, F4L said.

“At any rate, it now appears that the range of daily maternal deaths is a wide one – anywhere from 6.5 to 11.1. It can be 6, it can be 11 (a nice, double-digit figure for PR purposes, especially). But lawmakers should have been informed ahead of floor debates that the numbers have changed significantly. Thanks to poor research by the RH lobby, they were caught using old data,” F4L said.

“We are astounded that the pro-RH lobby had to go to great lengths to justify the excessive and exclusive use of ‘11 a day.’ We wonder why the figure is now attributed to government statistical agencies, when before, credit was given to the UNFPA and other international bodies. Did the lobbyists misrepresent old data as current? There is a word for that: disingenuous,” it added.

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