Tetanus toxoid scare will not change our position on reproductive health

DAVAO CITY (Gabriela Network of Professionals-Davao City/16 October) — In the past few days, alarms have been raised that tetanus toxoid contain HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone that maintains pregnancy. This hormone in tetanus toxoid allegedly causes abortion because the body will produce an antibody that will recognize the pregnancy as foreign and, therefore, has to be expelled.

We, at the Gabriela Network of Professionals, will not respond with a scare because the tetanus toxoid immunization of the mothers has effectively reduced deaths among the newborn infants from tetanus. It has also protected the mother from tetanus. We have to consider women who do not have access to hospitals and those living in poor conditions. Tetanus toxoid immunization will protect both the mother and the newborn.

Three doses of tetanus toxoid vaccines will protect the woman for 10 years and five doses give lifelong immunity. But since women are the ones who get pregnant, they have to be prioritized. The Under Five children are covered through DPT (Diptheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) immunization. Those who have any doubts regarding the vaccines of DOH may get their tetanus toxoid from other sources, if only to avoid exposing their newborns to tetanus and to protect themselves. Ideally, everybody (children, men and women) should be covered by all kinds of immunization and not just tetanus toxoid immunization. Our dismal budget for health will not make that possible.

We would also like to clarify that we protest any form of violation against women human rights including coercive sterilization. We leave the World Health Organization and the Department of Health to explain the allegations of tetanus toxoid being laced with abortion-causing substance, HCG, if this is not a mere resurrection of the 1990’s scare.

We, at the Gabriela Network of Professionals, have contributed to the development of Reproductive Health Concept not within the framework based solely on contraception and abortion. We work on the framework that Health is Basic Human Right and on Social Justice. It is holistic framework that it veers away from the women-victim blaming context. It is not anchored on a premise that women are sinful and should be deprived of their rights. Reproductive Health is non-selective. It is for all. We even find the population control framework as oversimplified. It is not confined to abortion and contraception. It does not encourage abortion but is trying to develop structures and mechanisms that prevent abortions.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of physical, mental ,and social being not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The Reproductive Health takes the issue further utilizing gender-based analysis as gender development is compatible with societal development.

We strongly urge the government sector not to make the Catholic Church hierarchy opposition as an excuse for not pushing Reproductive Health. It is not a choice for the government. It is state responsibility.

For the institutional Catholic Church, the official stand against Reproductive Health is not an absolute stand that is equal to belief in God. It is authentic but non-infallible stand. We respectfully disagree with the framework that is not anchored on Social Justice for women.

Jean Lindo, M.D.
Gabriela Network of Professionals – Davao City