Michael New

New study claims big benefits of no-cost contraception: media swoons

Michael New
Michael New

October 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A new study which recently appeared in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology has the mainstream media swooning. A program which provided free contraception to over 9,000 women in the St. Louis area purportedly resulted in dramatic reductions in abortions, repeat abortions, and teen births. This study has been covered by USA Today, the Associated Press, CBS News and countless other media outlets.

Specifically, the researchers enrolled 9,256 adolescents and women in the program. Participants were recruited from the two abortion facilities in the St. Louis region and through provider referral, advertisements, and word of mouth. All participants received the reversible contraceptive method of their choice. However, the researchers highlight the fact that 75 percent of women taking part in the study chose a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) — either an IUD or an implant. Many will doubtless use these findings to buttress their case for mandates on contraceptive coverage in insurance programs and greater government spending on contraceptives. However, there are at least five reasons why this study greatly overstates the impact of no-cost contraception.

1) No control group: The main problem with this study is that it fails to include an adequate control group. Each of the 9,256 participants in the study was a volunteer. As such, women in the study very likely had a stronger desire to avoid a future pregnancy than women who declined to participate. Most research indicates that a desire to avoid pregnancy has a significant impact on the likelihood of becoming pregnant. As such, comparing the abortion rate and the birth rate of study participants to national and state averages is a flawed comparison. A better idea would have been to randomly select some percentage of the volunteers, inform them that they were not going to receive free contraception, but continue to track their births and abortions in exchange for some compensation. That would have allowed for a meaningful comparison between a treatment group and a control group.

2). Limited impact on repeat abortion rate: The study makes much of the fact that between 2006 and 2010 there was a statistically significant decline in the repeat abortion rate in St. Louis City and County. This may well be true. However, the results indicate that the repeat abortion rate fell from about 48 percent in 2006 to about 45 percent in 2010 — hardly a dramatic decline.

3) Exaggerated impact on overall abortion rate: The authors also make much of the fact that the number of abortions performed at Reproductive Health Services on women who resided in St. Louis City and County declined by 20.6 percent between 2008 and 2010. However, Reproductive Health Services is not the only abortion provider in the St. Louis area. Furthermore, only a small percentage of St. Louis area women took part in the program. Now, the authors use a weighting method and, as such, do not provide the actual number of abortions performed on program participants. However, my back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that much of this abortion decline was among women not taking part in this no-cost contraceptive program.

4) The weighting mechanism overstates effectiveness of contraception program: Program participants were not a random sample of women residing in the St. Louis area. They were more likely to be African-American, young, and low-income. As such, the authors weigh the data to compare birth rates and abortion rates of program participants to birth rates and abortion rates of a similar demographic cohort. Consequently, these contraceptive methods likely appeared more effective than they actually were — because they were being used by a demographic with both relatively high birth rates and abortion rates.

Now, sometimes weighting data makes sense. Some demographic groups have a higher incidence of sexual activity and use contraceptives less consistently. However, since a high percentage of study participants used long-acting contraceptive methods, weighting makes less sense. Long-acting contraceptive methods work automatically and their effectiveness should be less sensitive to the frequency of sexual activity. In the spirit of full disclosure, the authors should publicly provide the raw, unweighted data on the birthrate and abortion rate of study participants. That would provide a much better measure of the effectiveness of this program.

5) The results are not generalizable to a large population: The authors state that IUDs are more popular in Europe than they are in the United States. There are a variety of reasons for this. However, one factor the authors overlook is that many physicians in the United States are unwilling to insert IUDs because of liability issues. Indeed, IUDs users have an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and perforation of the uterus. Also, if a woman using an IUD wants to get pregnant, her IUD would have to be removed by a physician. For this reason, even if these long-term methods were available at no cost, it is not clear that many women would choose to use them.

Interestingly, the study only tracked the abortion rates and birth rates among program participants. There was no effort to analyze how the provision of no-cost contraception impacted sexual activity, the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, or any other public-health outcomes. If the authors are going to use this research to argue for mandatory coverage of long-acting contraceptives, they should continue to monitor and report on the health outcomes of study participants in the future. This is an important consideration, given that long-acting contraceptives pose some serious health risks.

All in all, the pro-life movement receives plenty of criticism from the mainstream media and supporters of legal abortion for not being more contraceptive-friendly. However, in reality there is little evidence that supports the effectiveness of contraceptive programs. Separate studies from both the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control both indicate that a low percentage of sexually active women forgo contraception due to high cost or lack of availability.

Additionally, there is a body of research documenting the ineffectiveness of various contraception programs. For instance, the Daily Mail reported that a program launched by the British government in 1999 to provide “comprehensive” sexual education and birth control to British teens resulted in consistent increases in the teen pregnancy rate. Similarly, a study of a free contraception program in Scotland which appeared in the journal Contraception in 2004 found no decline in abortion rates. Finally, a study of a free contraception program in San Francisco which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association found this program produced no decrease in unintended pregnancy rates. Of course, these studies typically receive scant attention from the mainstream media.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

African researchers warn early sexual activity increases risk of cancers

Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus
By Thaddeus Baklinski

A report on rising cancer rates in Africa delivered at a conference in Namibia last week warned that oral contraceptives and engaging in sexual activity from a young age lead to an increased risk of breast and reproductive system cancers.

Researchers presented the "2014 Integrated Africa Cancer Fact Sheet & Summary Score Card" during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa (SCCA) conference, held in Windhoek, Namibia from July 20 to 22, noted that cancer is a growing health problem in many developing countries and that breast and cervical cancer are the most common forms affecting African women.

The report said that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) play a major role in reproductive system cancers and that young girls who engage in sexual activity risk getting, among other STDs, the human papilloma virus (HPV), some strains of which are linked to cervical cancer.

The report said although HPV infections are common in healthy women, they are usually fought off by the body’s immune system, with no discernible symptoms or health consequences.

The Cancer Association of South Africa points out that of the scores of HPV types, 14 of the more than 40 sexually transmitted varieties are considered "high risk" for causing serious illness, while two, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are linked to cervical cancer.

“Long-term use of oral contraceptives is also associated with increased risk [of cancer], and women living with HIV-AIDS are at increased risk of cervical cancer,” the report said.

Dr. Thandeka Mazibuko, a South African oncologist, told the conference attendees that when an 18-year-old is diagnosed with cervical cancer, “this means sex is an important activity in her life and she indulged from a young age.”

Mazibuko said the standard treatment for cancer of the cervix is seven weeks of radiation therapy.

“After the treatment they cannot have sex with their husbands or partners. They cannot bear children because everything has been closed up. Some may still have the womb but radiation makes them infertile,” Mazibuko said, according to a report in The Namibian.

Statistics from the Cancer Association of Namibia show that cases of cervical cancer have risen from 129 in 2005 to 266 in 2012.

The SCCA Conference theme was, "Moving forward to end Cervical Cancer by 2030: Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention."

In his keynote address, host and Namibian President Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba urged African countries to help each other to expand and modernize health care delivery in the continent.

"Within the context of the post-2015 Development Agenda and sustainable development goals, the provision of adequate health care to African women and children must be re-emphasized," said the president, according to AllAfrica.

The Namibian leader urged mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months as a measure to prevent breast cancer.


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Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Allow ‘lethal injection’ for poor to save on palliative care: Lithuanian health minister

Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary
By Hilary White

Euthanasia is a solution for terminally ill poor people who cannot afford palliative care and who do not want to “see their families agonize” over their suffering, Lithuania’s health minister said last week.

In an interview on national television, Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė added that the Belgian law on child euthanasia ought to be “taken into account” as well. 

Šalaševičiūtė told TV3 News that Lithuania, a country whose population is 77 percent Catholic, is not a welfare state and cannot guarantee quality palliative care for all those in need of it. The solution, therefore, would be “lethal injection.”

“It is time to think through euthanasia in these patients and allow them to make a decision: to live or die,” she said.

Direct euthanasia remains illegal in the Balkan state, but activists tried to bring it to the table in 2012. A motion to drop the planned bill was passed in the Parliament in March that year in a vote of 75 to 14. Since then the country has undergone a change in government in which the far-left Social Democrats have formed the largest voting bloc.

Šalaševičiūtė is a member of Parliament for the Social Democrats, the party originally established in the late 19th century – re-formed in the late 1980s – from Marxist principles and now affiliated with the international Party of European Socialists and Socialist International.

Fr. Andrius Narbekovas, a prominent priest, lecturer, physician, bioethicist, and member of the government’s bioethics committee, called the suggestion “satanic,” according to Delfi.lt. He issued a statement saying it is the purpose of the Ministry of Health to “protect the health and life, instead of looking for ways to take away life.”

“We understand that people who are sick are in need of funds. But a society that declares itself democratic, should very clearly understand that we have to take care of the sick, not kill them,” he said.


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Islamists in Mosul mark Christian homes with an Arabic "N" for Nazarene.
Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.

We must open wide our doors to Iraq’s Christians

Gualberto Garcia Jones, J.D.
By Gualberto Garcia Jones J.D.

On July 18, the largest Christian community in Iraq, the Chaldean Catholics of Mosul, were given a grotesque ultimatum: leave your ancestral home, convert to Islam, or die.

All but forgotten by the 1.2 billion Catholics of the world, these last Christians who still speak Jesus’ native tongue of Aramaic and live in the land of Abraham and Jonah are being wiped out before our very eyes.

As a way of issuing a thinly-veiled threat, reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Arabic letter “N” (for Nazarean) has been painted on the outside of the homes of all known Christians in Mosul.

These threats, issued by the fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) known for its bloodthirsty rampage of executions, have been taken very seriously by the several hundred thousand Christians in Mosul who have left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. 

At least most of these Christians were able to flee and find temporary protection among the Kurds in their semi-autonomous region.  However the Kurds do not have the resources to defend or shelter the Chaldean Christians for much longer.

On Monday, during an interview on Fox News, Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, who recently joined with 54 other members of the House of Representatives in a letter to President Obama asking him to act to protect these communities, stated that while Iraqi President Maliki had sent military flights to Mosul to evacuate Shiite Muslims, the US has done nothing to protect the Chaldean Christians.  Rep. Wolf also stated emphatically that President Obama has done “almost nothing” about the genocide taking place.

The silence from the White House is deafening.  But the lack of leadership from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America has been shocking as well.

Nevertheless, the plight of these Iraqi Christians is beginning to be taken seriously.   This is due in large part to the heroic efforts of local Iraqi religious leaders like Chaldean Patriarch Sako, who has gone on a whirlwind tour of the world to alert us all of the plight of these Iraqi Christians.  In a statement demonstrating his character, he told the Christians of Iraq last week, “We are your shepherds, and with our full responsibility towards you we will stay with you to the end, will not leave you, whatever the sacrifices.”

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was launched there were approximately 1.5 to 2 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be less than 200,000.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Now that the world is beginning to be aware of the genocide in Northern Iraq, many of us ask ourselves: what can we do?  As citizens and as Christians blessed to live in nations with relative peace and security, what can we do?

The answer is quite simple and unexpected.  Demand that our government and church pull its head out of the sand and follow France. Yes, France.  

Yesterday, in a heroic gesture of Christian solidarity that would make Joan of Arc proud, the government of France opened wide its doors to the persecuted Iraqi Christians.  

”France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," Laurent Fabius, France's foreign minister, and Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, said in a joint statement on Monday.

"The ultimatum given to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat that jihadist groups in Iraq, but also in Syria and elsewhere, pose to these populations that are historically an integral part of this region," they added. "We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil.  We are in constant contact with local and national authorities to ensure everything is done to protect them.”

The French statement drives home three crucial elements that every government, especially the United States, should communicate immediately:

  1. Recognize the genocide and name the perpetrators and victims.

  2. Officially condemn what is happening in the strongest terms.

  3. Offer a solution that includes cooperation with local authorities but which leads by making solid commitments such as offering asylum or other forms of protection.

With regard to the Church, we should look to the Chaldean Patriarch and the Iraqi bishops who shared their expectations explicitly in an open letter to “all people of conscience in Iraq and around the world” to take “practical actions to assure our people, not merely expressions of condemnation.”  Noticeably, the last section of the letter from the Iraqi bishops, before a final prayer to God, is an expression of thanks to the Kurdish government, which has welcomed them not just with “expressions” of goodwill but, like France, with a sacrificial hospitality.

On Friday, July 25, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did issue a statement, but unfortunately it lacked much in terms of leadership or solutions.  We should encourage our bishops to do better than that, be bolder and stronger for our persecuted brothers and sisters, name names and offer concrete sacrificial aid. In a word, be more like the French.

In 1553, Rome welcomed the Chaldean church into the fold of the Catholic Church.  Nearly 500 years later, Catholic Americans must find ways to welcome these persecuted people into our country, into our churches, and into our own homes if need be.

I say, I am with you St. Joan of Arc.   I am with you, France.  I am with you, Chaldeans!

Gualberto Garcia Jones is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that seeks to advance the fundamental rights to life, the natural family, and religious liberty through international law and international relations. 


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