Why Do Filipino Women Die in Childbirth?

As the Philippines tries to cope with the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, some callous commentators are calling the disaster a failure of population control


The Philippines has long been under pressure from the U.S and elsewhere to adopt a China-like population control program, with the latest argument being that the mandatory provision of contraceptives will reduce maternal mortality in the island nation.

The Philippines is a target because of its size and its still robust fertility. It is one of the 15 most populous nations in the world and has an annual population growth rate of over 2%.[1] Only three countries in the world fit this description (the other two are Ethiopia and Nigeria), and all are in the crosshairs of the population controllers. In the Philippines this pressure takes the form of the controversial “Reproductive Health Bill” (RH Bill).

Proponents of the bill make many arguments, some ridiculous on their face and others less easily dismissed. It is easy to laugh off the suggestion that, “If the Philippines had had fewer people, fewer people would have died in the recent typhoon.” It is harder to dismiss the suggestion that: “If Philippino women had more access to contraception, they would have lower rates of maternal mortality.” The maternal mortality rate remains stubbornly high in the Philippines, and proponents of the RH Bill attribute this to a lack of contraception. But is this really the problem?

Last week, one of us (Anne Morse) attended a forum on public health in the Philippines attended by representatives of the principal agencies pushing population control on the country, including the chief of the Office of Health at US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the Philippines and a senior advisor to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

maternal mortality postpartum hemorrhage Merck for Mothers  preeclampsia family planning reproductive health pregnant naveen rao Philippines

Some of the presenters were honest about where the problem lies. Dr. Naveen Rao, the executive director of Merck for Mothers, for example, admitted that the main problem is not lack of contraception.  Rao stated: “We are approaching [maternal mortality] by focusing on the two big killers, and the two big killers worldwide are postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia. Again, we know why they are dying, and we know how to save them.”

Of course, being a representative of a Big Pharma company that makes billions from abortifacient contraceptives, he ended with a sales pitch: “And the third pillar is family planning and reproductive health, because if you don't get pregnant, you won’t die from it. [Laughter from audience] So we’re focusing on these three targets.”

But the numbers don’t lie, even if the population controllers do. The causes of maternal death in the Philippines are well known.  More than half the deaths are caused by hemorrhage (bleeding), 52% to be exact, while eclampsia (characterized by seizures) accounts for another 27%. Ruptured uteruses and other causes account for the remainder.[2] So if we take care of women who are hemorrhaging and suffering from eclampsia, we would reduce the number of women dying in childbirth by four-fifths.

To put it another way, women aren’t dying because they don’t have family planning. They are dying from postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia. They are dying because they lack primary health care. The Philippines has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 51% and a maternal mortality rate of 209 deaths for every 100,000 births. Japan, a developed country, has an almost identical contraceptive prevalence rate, at 54%.  But Japan has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world, suffering only 5 maternal deaths per every 100,000 births.[3] To repeat, Filipinos are not dying from a lack of so-called “modern contraception.” They are dying from a lack of real health care.Contraceptive Prevalence Maternal Deaths Maternal Mortality unmet need USAID

Those who promote contraception under the guise of reducing maternal mortality also claim that they are simply “giving women what they want.” This is simply not true. Filipino women want children—they just don’t want to die while giving birth to them.

Half of all maternal deaths in the Philippines occur during a woman’s first three pregnancies.[4]  Filipino women express a desire for 2.5 children on average, so their first three children are wanted children. And consider this: The poorest women in the Philippines—those who suffer the most maternal deaths—say they would like to have three or four children.[5] In other words, international agencies who attempt to reduce maternal mortality by preventing women from conceiving children are violating the rights of these women to decide for themselves how many children they should have. They are throwing wanted babies out with the dirty bath water of maternal death.

The truth is that those who promote family planning are much more interested in controlling fertility than in actually helping women. In fact, according to the numbers, they are about three times more interested in controlling fertility. The most recent numbers from USAID show that while USAID spent 15 million dollars on family planning in the Philippines, it only spent $5 million on maternal health, and a measly $1.7 million on clean water and sanitation.[6]

USAID spending Philippines HIV Aids family planning reproductive health dollars to results maternal child tuberculosis water supply sanitation budget philippines

Let us not be fooled  by the latest deception of the population controllers, namely, that they are simply interested in reducing maternal mortality. No woman should ever die in childbirth, but she does not have to give up her dream of being a mother to avoid this fate. Tens of millions of women safely give birth in developed nations every year, not because of contraception, but because they receive adequate prenatal and postnatal care. Artificial contraception does not make pregnancies safer, it just makes pregnancy less frequent.

If international aid agencies and their Filipino stooges are truly concerned with helping Filipino women, they will focus on increasing access to primary health care. They will work to reduce maternal deaths, rather than to reduce maternity itself.

Of course, that would mean they would have to abandon their obsession with “overpopulation.”

 

 

[1] "Central Intelligence Agency." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2119.html#rp>.

[2] GARCES, ROSTON G. "Reproductive Age Mortality Studies (RAMOS): Analysis on the Risk Factors of Maternal Death, Bukidnon, 2008."

[3] "Philippines." Data Finder. Population Reference Bureau, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://www.prb.org/DataFinder/Geography/Data.aspx?loc=399>.

[4] GARCES, ROSTON G. "Reproductive Age Mortality Studies (RAMOS): Analysis on the Risk Factors of Maternal Death, Bukidnon, 2008."

[5] "STATcompiler." STATcompiler. Demographic and Health Surveys, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://www.statcompiler.com/>.

[6] "Health in the Philippines." Dollars to Results. USAID, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <http://results.usaid.gov/philippines/health>.

 
 

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