WHILE anatomically illiterate politicians in America babble about “legitimate rape,” a Filipino legislator opposed to birth controlhas been shedding crocodile tears in Parliament and plagiarizing speeches to bolster the case against reproductive rights.
On Aug. 13, the Senate majority leader, Tito Sotto, wept while addressing his assembled peers. The former actor told the Senate that birth-control pills, used by his wife in 1974, had led to the death of their newborn son a year later. The emotional scene shut down the day’s debate. It was the latest obstruction to passing a reproductive health law that has languished for 14 years.
Proponents of the reproductive health bill say it will address poverty, women’s rights, infant and maternal mortality, and overpopulation in a poor nation crowded with 94 million people. Though contraceptives are currently available, the general population can’t afford them. The bill seeks to offer natural and artificial birth-control options, reproductive health care and sex education in public schools.
Opponents, like Mr. Sotto and the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, say contraception is akin to abortion. They claim the bill is an elitist and foreign conspiracy to corrupt a country in which 80 percent of the population is Catholic. They fear the erosion of family values, state intrusion on religious freedom, tacit approval of promiscuity and side effects of oral contraceptives.
Two days later, news that Mr. Sotto had plagiarized his speech spilled across blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Careful readers proved that he’d copied and pasted, without citation, large portions from as many as at least five online sources. Among them were the writings of Sarah Pope, who blogs as “the Healthy Home Economist”; a New York University Web site on the notable birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger; and an American activist named Janice Formichella, writing for Feminists for Choice. What’s more, the senator twisted their words for his own purposes.