Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte took the opportunity of a speech on family planning Tuesday to lambaste Iceland and “white” people generally, citing Iceland’s extremely high abortion rates and cursing the country to “freeze in time.”
Duterte’s government is launching a new initiative to make contraception more accessible in response to his top officials on the issue demanding Duterte declare teen pregnancy in the country a “national social emergency.” In some of the Philippines’ poorest regions, up to one in five teen girls have given birth or are pregnant, entering motherhood unprepared and straining the country’s social safety net.
Duterte has repeatedly criticized Iceland after the European nation led a global initiative to condemn Duterte for using aggressive policing against the illegal drug trade, encouraging the extrajudicial killing of drug suspects and even vowing to offer bounties for individuals accused of drug trafficking. Icelandic officials have joined much of Europe in accusing Duterte of violating the human rights of his people and urging his administration to abide by international law.
The Philippine president has responded to the criticism by threatening physical assault on international observers and threatening to burn down the headquarters of the United Nations. Duterte typically saves his most aggressive complaints for “white people,” a term he has used vaguely to describe both human rights advocates and members of the Islamic State.
Discussing family planning at an event observing the anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program on Tuesday, Duterte noted that his support for contraception did not include support for abortion.
“Iceland allows the slaughter of the fetus inside the womb of the mother up to 6 months. Putang ina nila (Son of a bitch),” Duterte said. “Iceland doesn’t eat anything except for ice. The whites really have no shame and yet they teach me what to do.”
“I’m so sorry for you, that you are in the ice forever. I hope you freeze in time,” Duterte concluded.
Contraception in the Philippines has been a hard sell, in part due to centuries of Catholic tradition that have left many wary of family planning. Duterte has repeatedly attacked the Catholic Church on a variety of topics – publicly claiming to have been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest while still a minor – and disparaged priests in particular for “think[ing] that spewing out human beings by the millions is a gift from God.”
“We are the fastest growing population and I squarely blame the Catholic Church,” Duterte said in June, claiming Catholic leaders “are the only ones against family planning.”
Unlike China, Japan, and Korea, the Philippines is facing rapid population growth, largely at the hand of unplanned teen parents. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, women in the country lose as much as $800 million in lifetime earnings by having children and leaving the workforce.
Nine percent of the nation’s 15-19-year-olds have had children as of a 2017 survey. In Davao, the city Duterte governed for 22 years, that number rises to 20 percent.
“I commit to advocate for the President to issue an executive order acknowledging teen pregnancy as a national social emergency,” Pernia said last week.
Iceland, in contrast, does not have a growing population problem and documents high numbers of abortions once women are informed that their child likely has a chromosomal abnormality. Women can kill their unborn children at up to 22 weeks legally, though the government must approve individual cases after 16 weeks. An ultrasound can detect a child’s heartbeat as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The average duration of a pregnancy is 40 weeks, making 22 weeks over half the span of the pregnancy.
In 2017, researchers found that Iceland had nearly “eliminated” Down Syndrome through abortion. Abortion of children following a prenatal screening test that shows a high probability of chromosomal abnormalities was near 100 percent, officials said. As prenatal screenings only offer probabilities, not confirmation of Down Syndrome or other such conditions, there is no guarantee that a positive screening means a child has the condition detected.
Duterte began attacking the nation of Iceland in July over their concerns about human rights in the Philippines, not specifically over the nation’s abortion policies. That month, Iceland led efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Duterte’s war on drug trafficking.
“For a small and peaceful country like Iceland, international law and the multilateral system is our sword, shield and shelter. Therefore, when Iceland became a new member of the Council last year, Iceland pledged to address human rights concerns objectively and, on their merits, in a non-politicized, non-selective manner,” Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement at the time. Last year, Icelandic U.N. representatives called for the organization to send a special rapporteur to the Philippines to investigate extrajudicial killings.
The Human Rights Council adopted Iceland’s resolution to investigate Duterte’s government.
“Iceland surprises me. It’s always been a country complaining about extrajudicial killing and for a country who does not have a night, it’s always like 4 o’clock in the afternoon all day long,” Duterte said in response.
“These sons of whores cannot understand that we have a problem,” he said following the resolution’s passing. “Iceland, what is Iceland’s problem? Just ice. That’s your problem. You have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there. So you can understand why there is no crime. There is no policeman either… These idiots, they don’t understand the social, economic, political problems of the Philippines.”
Iceland enjoys moderate temperatures in the summer and a daytime that lasts from May 21 to July 30, according to Iceland Magazine. In the winter, however, the country experiences four-hour days due to its proximity to the North Pole.
There is no evidence that Icelandic people traditionally eat “just ice.”