Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 25 May |
Saint of the Day: St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

The Most Absurd Argument for the HHS Mandate So Far

The Most Absurd Argument for the HHS Mandate So Far Jeffrey Bruno

Jeffrey Bruno

Ben Johnson - published on 01/31/14

Not from the Onion, but the Los Angeles Times.

The feminist brigade is so desperate to support the indefensible HHS mandate that they’ve thrown the ultimate Hail Mary pass: calling in the nuns.

An op-ed in today’s Los Angeles Times suggests that not only are the Little Sisters of the Poor wrong to oppose mandatory coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs under ObamaCare, but that they should be consuming them, as well.

“Members of the Little Sisters of the Poor are sincere and intelligent women with admirable goals, but they are asking the Supreme Court to exempt them from covering a medicine that would benefit their health,” wrote Malcolm Potts, a professor of public health at Berkeley.

How does he come to this counterintuitive conclusion? Researchers have found having a higher number of menstrual cycles raises the chances of uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding and pregnancy lower the odds of developing these cancers. Since nuns are celibate and neither become pregnant nor engage in subsequent nursing, they have an elevated risk for developing all three cancers.

Hence, Potts and others desperate to crush Catholic resistance point out that the hormonal contraceptive pill is shown to reduce the chances of developing uterine and ovarian cancer. “There’s no change in breast cancer, which is neither more nor less common among women who have used the pill,” Potts assures us.

In effect, he argues, if you are reticent to support ObamaCare because it tramples religious liberty, do it for the nuns.

His argument is not new. The British health journal The Lancet made a similar case in December 2011. But with the Little Sisters, Hobby Lobby, and other faithful business people making the case that the ObamaCare mandate violates the First Amendment, the social revolutionaries’ noise chamber has cranked up the decibels.

After condemning the “theological errors” in Pope Paul VI’s contraception condemnation, Potts concludes by asking, “Will Pope Francis have the good sense to reverse Humanæ Vitæ?” Ignoring Potts’ theological pretensions, his article is scientifically erroneous.

The National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health reports on its website, “The risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers is reduced with the use of” oral contraceptives, “while the risk of breast and cervical cancers is increased.”

How great an increase? According to a 2007 study conducted by researchers at Oxford University and published in The Lancet, women who take oral contraceptives double their risk of cervical cancer. The risk persists for 10 years after they stop taking the pill, they found.

As for breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen Foundation – which we have learned, to our sorrow, is not consistently pro-life – notes that women who have taken the birth control pill have a “10 to 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used the pill.” This threat, too, lingers a decade after the woman stops taking hormonal contraception.

Contraception’s carcinogenic effects are so well established that in 2005, the World Health Organization declared the estrogen-progestogen pill a Group One carcinogen – its deadliest rating. Globally, ten percent of all women of reproductive age are taking such an oral contraceptive.

“When is it ever right to give a group one carcinogen to a healthy woman?” Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, an oncologist and co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, has asked.

Prescribing the pill to nuns who are already predisposed to develop breast cancer is like pouring gasoline on a burning vehicle on the grounds that gasoline is good for cars.

Of course, cancer is but one danger. Women who use artificial contraception are more likely to develop blood clots, which may in turn trigger heart attacks even in young, healthy women.

Last November, researchers found women who use birth control for three years doubled their chances of developing glaucoma.

Such concerns are not likely to move Potts, et. al. His argument is not motivated by science but by ideology. He and the bureaucrats in the Obama administration are eager to fund Planned Parenthood, which recently settled with the state of Texas and the federal government over allegations it overcharged the government for providing contraceptives. (Planned Parenthood, in turn, spent $15 million in the 2012 elections, so we know where the money it skims off the top is going.)

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Invoking the nuns as a justification for such a policy, which funds not mere opinions but the spread of life-threatening abortifacients, is a violation of such fundamental principles that it is truly a matter of concern for us all.

Ben Johnsonis U.S. Bureau Chief of and guest host of “Nothing But Truth with Crane Durham” on AFR Talk. The author of three books, he was managing editor of for seven years. His personal website is

CharityContraceptionReligious FreedomVocations
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.