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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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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