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In a clear violation of the First Amendment, Barack Obama – who should know better as a former senior lecturer in constitutional law – continues to try and force all Catholic nonprofits to provide their employees with so-called “modern methods of birth control.” Even the largely abortifacient Morning After Pill is included. It is “preventative health care,” his administration claims, and must be “free” for the asking.
The American bishops have rejected this unlawful mandate and have asked Congress to pass a law rescinding it. Their position is that the mandate violates the deeply held religious beliefs of all Catholics. As the head of a pro-life Catholic apostolate, I would add that it is also a direct assault on our own God-given mission: to protect and defend innocent unborn life.
You see, the pill – along with all its injectable and implantable counterparts – is a really nasty piece of work.
First of all, it is potentially abortifacient, which is a fancy way of saying that it kills unborn children. Most American women simply don’t know that the pill they swallow with their morning orange juice can cause early-term abortions. They don’t know that, while on the pill, they (1) may still ovulate, (2) may still conceive a child, and (3) may then abort that child. This is one of the ways that the pill works.
This hard truth would probably give even Sandra Fluke pause – remember, she was the law school student who complained to a committee of the U.S. Senate that Georgetown University wouldn’t give her “free” birth control –if she knew about it. Not that I necessarily blame her for her ignorance. How many American women, including Catholics, have been sold a bill of goods where contraception is concerned? You can’t give your “informed consent” if you are not informed in the first place.
“The pill is not a warm little fuzzy harmless object,” one doctor noted to me. “It causes significant harm to women. As a practicing physician, I see the fallout every day – young women with early breast cancer, cervical cancer, blood clots in their legs, strokes, Human Papillomavirus (HPV). But women aren’t told. Informed consent provisions are widely violated.”
We warn elderly ladies about the dangers of Hormone Replacement Therapy. We avoid hormone-laced beef. We insist that athletes stay away from steroids, and charge them with a crime if they use them anyway. And then we turn around hand out powerful, steroid-based drugs to young women like Sandra Fluke, deceiving them into thinking that taking megadoses of these powerful drugs to chemically disable their reproductive systems is completely harmless. How could it be?
How many women know that tens of thousands of Norplant users became ill after having the hormone-laden capsules implanted under their skin? Over 50,000 women filed lawsuits against Norplant’s manufacturer and some also sued their own doctors for failure to adequately disclose the type and severity of Norplant’s adverse side effects. How many women know that popular contraceptive pills, the patch, the ring, injectables, implants and IUDs have also been the subject of class action lawsuits because of the harm they have caused women?
Those who claim that birth control is simply “preventative care,” like those in the Obama administration, are deceiving the public. As any doctor can tell you, true preventative care in the area of reproductive health involves examining patients for diseases of the reproductive system, performing breast exams looking for breast cancer, doing pap smears looking for cervical cancer, and referring for mammograms and ordering colonoscopies.
These time-tested measures are of a totally different nature than surgically sterilizing someone, or prescribing a pill to prevent a child from being conceived or developing. Is fertility a disease? Is pregnancy a disease state? Or is the gestation of a child a normal physiological process of the human body? As Drs. Peck and Norris have convincingly argued, birth control simply does not qualify as preventative care. (Peck, R. and Norris, C. "Why OCPS Should Not Be Part of a Preventative Care Mandate: Significant Risks and Harms of OCPS," Linacre Quarterly, Feb 2012.)
The Administration continues to try and have it both ways. The President continues to promise the Sandra Flukes of the world that he will give them enough “free” pills, implants, injections, and rings to sterilize a herd of elephants. And he promises outraged Catholics that neither they – nor their Catholic healthcare and educational institutions – will have to pay a penny to stop Sandra and her sisters from ovulating.
So how does he intend to pay for birth control for every woman of reproductive age? By relying on what the now-infamous architect of Obamacare, MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, has called the “economic stupidity” of the American voter, that’s how.
“I have ordered the health insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control,” is the President’s current line. Of course, he and his Ivy League advisors know that the insurance companies will carry out his “executive order” by simply passing the cost along to their policyholders. But Prof. Gruber and others have assured the President that most Americans are too stupid to understand this, or to understand that this phony “compromise” actually means that all Catholics and Christians will wind up paying extra insurance premiums for things that they find morally objectionable.
A real compromise would remove free birth control, sterilizations and other abortifacient drugs from the preventative care mandate altogether. Of course, American women would have the same access to them that they have always had. They would just not be “free,” they would not be part of "preventative care" … and Catholics would not have to pay for them.
Many Catholics could care less about “free” birth control because they understand there is something better. They know that there is another method of family planning that is not only truly “free,” but also does not involve any invasive procedures or powerful, steroidal hormones, a method that is, in fact, promoted by the Catholic Church. Modern methods of Natural Family Planning or NFP – such as Dr Fehrings’s Marquette method, or Dr. Hilgers’s Creighton method, or Dr. Billings’s method – have no unhealthy consequences at all. Instead, they empower women, strengthen marriages, and allow couples to express their sexuality in the natural way that nature, and nature’s God, intended.
All it requires is a little self-control for a few days a month.
At this point the sexual libertines in the Administration, at our elite universities, and at Planned Parenthood clinics dissolve into mocking laughter. It is simply inconceivable to them that anyone could or would practice self-control in matters of sex.
But what human activities don’t require at least a modicum of self control? Most of us voluntarily abstain from food from time to time, whether we do it for spiritual reasons (during Advent or Lent), or because we don’t like how we look. We work hard to quit smoking and admire those who succeed. We put warning labels on food packages and danger signs on cigarette packages. (While we’re at it, maybe we should put pictures of stroke victims on the covers of packets of birth control pills?) Even those of us who fail in diets and workout regimens admire those who succeed, or at least we pretend to.
Even condoms and birth control pills require users to exhibit a certain amount of self-control. When not used correctly and consistently every time, typical use failure rates are 17 percent and 9 percent respectively. Simply put, with typical use, 17 percent of women whose partners use condoms as their primary method of birth control will become pregnant within 12 months, as will typically 9 percent of women on the pill (due to less than perfect compliance). Such failures explain why contraception invariably leads to unintended pregnancy and abortion.
Many Catholics understand what the Administration apparently does not, namely, that happily married couples who practice NFP have more and better sex than those who contracept – this despite taking a few days off each month. Moreover, their healthy sex lives are free from illness, disease, and the dangerous consequences of contraceptive drugs. Finally, the marriages of these NFP practitioners nearly always last for a lifetime, and are open to the joy of new life.
It’s too bad that none of Sandra Flukes’s Catholic professors at Georgetown Law had the courage to tell her that there was a better way.
Steven W. Mosheris the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits.