Carson Holloway

The costs of contraception

Carson Holloway
By Carson Holloway
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Coauthored with John Safranek

April 20, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - A great deal of public discussion has been sparked by the recent determination of the Department of Health and Human Services that it would, under the legal authority of the new health care law, require health insurance plans to cover the costs of hormonal contraception. Much of that discussion has focused on the nature and importance of religious freedom, since the directives would require some institutions, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, to provide health insurance coverage for things that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching. To a lesser extent, the HHS regulations have provoked some renewed discussion—at least among Catholics, but perhaps more generally among religious conservatives—about the morality of contraception itself, a topic that had seemed closed as a topic of genuine inquiry for the last generation.

The HHS directives should also give rise to another discussion, one that so far has not been undertaken: a discussion not of the legality of the mandates, nor of the morality of contraception, but of the physical costs of contraception, of the negative consequences it may have for the health and well-being of the women who use it. This aspect of the question has been all but totally ignored. For their part, the liberal partisans of the HHS mandates speak as if hormonal contraception is simply an unmitigated good, a clean gain, for women. Indeed, their argument suggests that such contraception is so unequivocally good that there can be no reasonable argument about the propriety of mandating its coverage as a health care benefit.

This assumption deserves to be challenged because it is untrue. That is, hormonal contraception carries certain physical costs in addition to the benefits touted by its proponents. Unless these costs are frankly acknowledged, American women will be in no position to make an informed choice about whether or not to use contraception. Yet presumably Americans of all ideological persuasions could agree that women should be in a position to choose or reject contraception based upon full knowledge of its potential physical consequences.

The popular view of contraception as an unmitigated good is based upon a naïve understanding of science’s ability to intervene in natural processes. Modern people are understandably impressed by science’s ability to manipulate nature, to divert it to courses more acceptable (or apparently more acceptable) to human well-being than it would take if left to itself. We are often more impressed, however, than would be justified on closer examination. It is, after all, impossible to interject technological control into any natural system without incurring some undesirable consequences. Liberals understand this very well when the issue is non-human natural systems—the “environment.” They can easily tell you the problems that are caused by cutting down trees, mining coal, or burning oil.

But a woman’s body is a natural system like any other. It is devised by nature—for a portion of the woman’s lifespan—to be capable of becoming pregnant, to be fertile. Medical science cannot simply turn that fertility on and off like a light switch. It is rather to be expected that suppression of fertility through the use of birth control pills will carry certain physical costs for the woman who does it. The evidence bears out this expectation. In discussing these consequences we divide them into two categories: health risks and costs to physical well-being.

The existing scientific literature suggests that the long-term use of birth control pills is associated with increased risk for certain serious, and potentially deadly, health problems. A 2009 Mayo Clinic study noted a doubling of the risk of breast cancer in women who had used birth control pills for more than eleven years. Similarly, another recent study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, found that longer duration of use of hormonal contraception, as well as earlier first age of use, increased risk of breast cancer. Specifically, the study found that women who started using birth control pills before age 18 were at 1.9 times the normal risk level for all forms of breast cancer, and that women 40 and younger were at a 4.2-fold increased risk of triple negative breast cancer, one of the worst forms, which accounts for between 10 and 17 percent of all breast cancer cases.

Some forms of hormonal birth control have also been associated with increased risk for blood clots. Yaz, which was for several years the top-selling birth control pill, was discovered to almost double the risk for blood clotting, which can be lethal. There were about ten deaths per year among Yaz users during the period from 2004 to 2008, although the actual number of fatalities may be higher. Finally, birth control pills are harmful for the cardiac health of women who suffer from atherosclerotic disease. Those who use birth control pills usually cannot know whether they are assuming this additional risk, since it is generally financially impractical to screen for atherosclerosis prior to the use of birth control.

While these problems are admittedly only risks and not certainties attending the use of birth control, it is also worth noting that they do not necessarily represent all of the risks involved. That is, birth control pills may in some cases be more perilous than we know. The aforementioned Yaz had been approved by the FDA and was in use for several years before its connection to blood clotting came to light. Similarly, the author of the aforementioned NIH study on birth control and breast cancer noted the “scarcity” of studies of this link, and hence the need for “further research” on it.

Birth control pills also tend to carry costs to physical well-being. Use of birth control pills is associated with an increased incidence of unpleasant things such as depression, mood swings, weight gain, impeded weight loss, headache, upper respiratory infection, sinusitis, nausea, menstrual cramps, acne, breast tenderness, vaginal candidiasis (commonly known as “yeast infection”), bacterial vaginitis, and urinary tract infection. Although normally not life-threatening, such physical ailments are certainly not insignificant to those who suffer them.

Moreover, they are especially noteworthy to the extent that they bear negatively upon the supposed benefit of contraception: sexual freedom. Sometimes the proponents of contraception present it as preventing pregnancy, but anyone with elementary knowledge of biology knows that pregnancy can be prevented even more reliably by refraining from sexual intercourse. Contraception’s real benefit, then, at least as its advocates see it, is sexual freedom, the ability to enjoy sex without unwanted consequences. The side effects mentioned above, however, put a serious dent in the argument for this benefit. Obviously, a woman suffering from some or even one of the physically unpleasant consequences of birth control will not be able to enjoy sexual activity as much as she otherwise might. This is especially evident in the case of several of the ailments noted above, the ones (such as vaginitis, urinary tract infection, and vaginal candidiasis) that involve vaginal discomfort.

Indeed, one commonly found side-effect of hormonal birth control is a decrease in libido or sexual desire. Whether this arises independently or is itself caused by some of the other disorders and discomforts noted above is immaterial to the basic fact that contraception, which is promoted as a means to sexual happiness, can in fact diminish a woman’s sexual happiness. The promise of contraception is that women will be able to have sex whenever they want to, but a closer look reveals that it might well make you not want to very much. Put another way, its claim to be a pure benefit is compromised to the extent that it diminishes the enjoyment of that which it puts within such easy reach. Access to more apples is not a pure gain if a larger percentage of the apples are spoiled and taste bad.

We do not claim that these risky and unpleasant side-effects render contraception immoral. The morality of contraception depends on philosophic arguments we are not making here. Nor do we claim that the bad side-effects are so severe as to justify a ban on contraception on public health grounds. We merely hold that these side-effects are often ignored in our public discourse, but that a truly free decision of women to use or not use them—as well as a truly free decision of voters whether to use government to promote them—depends on a frank acknowledgement of their costs along with their alleged benefits.

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press). John Safranek, MD, is a medical doctor practicing in Nebraska. He also holds a PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and his writings have appeared in the Hastings Center Report, the Texas Review of Law and Politics, and the University of Colorado Law Review. This article first appeared at thePublicDiscourse.com and is reprinted with permission.


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A Nazi extermination camp. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Imagine the outrage if anti-Semites were crowdsourcing for gas chambers

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By Pete Baklinski
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A Nazi oven where the gassed victims were destroyed by fire. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Empty canisters of the poison used by Nazis to exterminate the prisoners. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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Syringe for Manual Vacuum Aspiration abortion AbortionInstruments.com
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Uterine Currette AbortionInstruments.com
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Imagine the outrage if the Nazis had used online crowdsourcing to pay for the instruments and equipment used to eradicate Jews, gypsies, the handicapped, and other population groups — labeled “undesirable” — in their large industrialized World War II extermination facilities. 

Imagine if they posted a plea online stating: “We need to raise $85,000 to buy Zyklon B gas, to maintain the gas chambers, and to provide a full range of services to complete the ‘final solution.’”

People would be more than outraged. They would be sickened, disgusted, horrified. Humanitarian organizations would fly into high gear to do everything in their power to stop what everyone would agree was madness. Governments would issue the strongest condemnations.

Civilized persons would agree: No class of persons should ever be targeted for extermination, no matter what the reason. Everyone would tear the euphemistic language of “final solution” to shreds, knowing that it really means the hideous crime of annihilating a class of people through clinical, efficient, and state-approved methods of destruction. 

But crowdsourcing to pay for the instruments and equipment to exterminate human beings is exactly what one group in New Brunswick is doing.

Reproductive Justice NB has just finished raising more than $100,000 to lease the Morgentaler abortion facility in Fredericton, NB, which is about to close over finances. They’re now asking the public for “support and enthusiasm” to move forward with what they call “phase 2” of their goal.

“For a further $85,000 we can potentially buy all the equipment currently located at the clinic; equipment that is required to provide a full range of reproductive health services,” the group states on its Facebook page.

But what are the instruments and equipment used in a surgical abortion to destroy the pre-born child? It depends how old the child is. 

A Manual Vacuum Aspiration abortion uses a syringe-like instrument that creates suction to break apart and suck the baby up. It’s used to abort a child from 6 weeks to 12 weeks of age. Abortionist Martin Haskell has said the baby’s heart is often still beating as it’s sucked down the tube into the collection jar.

For older babies up to 16 weeks there is the Dilation and Curettage (D&C) abortion method. A Uterine Currette has one sharp side for cutting the pre-born child into pieces. The other side is used to scrape the uterus to remove the placenta. The baby’s remains are often removed by a vacuum.

For babies past 16 weeks there is the Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortion method, which uses forceps to crush, grasp, and pull the baby’s body apart before extraction. If the baby’s head is too large, it must be crushed before it can be removed.

For babies past 20 weeks, there is the Dilation and Extraction (D&X) abortion method. Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist uses forceps to partially deliver the baby until his or her head becomes visible. With the head often too big to pass through the cervix, the abortionist punctures the skull, sucks out the brains to collapse the skull, and delivers the dead baby.

Other equipment employed to kill the pre-born would include chemicals such as Methotrexate, Misoprostol, and saline injections. Standard office equipment would include such items as a gynecologist chair, oxygen equipment, and a heart monitor.

“It’s a bargain we don’t want to miss but we need your help,” writes the abortion group.

People should be absolutely outraged that a group is raising funds to purchase the instruments of death used to destroy a class of people called the pre-born. Citizens and human rights activists should be demanding the organizers be brought to justice. Politicians should be issuing condemnations with the most hard-hitting language.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Everyone should be tearing to shreds the euphemistic language of “reproductive health services,” knowing that it in part stands for the hideous crime of annihilating a class of people through clinical, efficient, and state-approved methods of destruction that include dismemberment, decapitation, and disembowelment.

There’s a saying about people not being able to perceive the error of their day. This was generally true of many in Hitler’s Germany who uncritically subscribed to his eugenics-driven ideology in which certain people were viewed as sub-human. And it’s generally true of many in Canada today who uncritically subscribe to the ideology of ‘choice’ in which the pre-born are viewed as sub-human.

It’s time for all of us to wake-up and see the youngest members of the human family are being brutally exterminated by abortion. They need our help. We must stand up for them and end this injustice.

Let us arise!


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Paul Wilson

The antidote to coercive population control

Paul Wilson
By Paul Wilson

The primary tenet of population control is simple: using contraception and abortifacients, families can “control” when their reproductive systems work and when they don’t – hence the endless cries that women “should have control over their own bodies” in the name of reproductive health.

However, in much of the world, the glittering rhetoric of fertility control gives way to the reality of control of the poorest citizens by their governments or large corporations. Governments and foreign aid organizations routinely foist contraception on women in developing countries. In many cases, any pretense of consent is steamrolled – men and women are forcibly sterilized by governments seeking to thin their citizens’ numbers.  (And this “helping women achieve their ‘ideal family size’” only goes one way – there is no government support for families that actually want more children.)

In countries where medical conditions are subpar and standards of care and oversight are low, the contraceptive chemicals population control proponents push have a plethora of nasty side effects – including permanent sterilization. So much for control over fertility; more accurately, the goal appears to be the elimination of fertility altogether.

There is a method for regulating fertility that doesn’t involve chemicals, cannot be co-opted or manipulated, and requires the mutual consent of the partners in order to work effectively. This method is Natural Family Planning (NFP).

Natural Family Planning is a method in which a woman tracks her natural indicators (such as her period, her temperature, cervical mucus, etc.) to identify when she is fertile. Having identified fertile days, couples can then choose whether or not to have sex during those days--abstaining if they wish to postpone pregnancy, or engaging in sex if pregnancy is desired.

Of course, the population control crowd, fixated on forcing the West’s vision of limitless bacchanalia through protective rubber and magical chemicals upon the rest of the world, loathes NFP. They deliberately confuse NFP with the older “rhythm method,” and cite statistics from the media’s favorite “research institute” (the Guttmacher Institute, named for a former director of Planned Parenthood) claiming that NFP has a 25% failure rate with “typical use.” Even the World Health Organization, in their several hundred page publication, “Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers,” admits that the basal body temperature method (a natural method) has a less than 1% failure rate—a success rate much higher than male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps or spermicides.

Ironically, the methods which they ignore – natural methods – grant true control over one’s fertility – helping couples both to avoid pregnancy or (horror of horrors!) to have children, with no government intervention required and no choices infringed upon.

The legitimacy of natural methods blows the cover on population controllers’ pretext to help women. Instead, it reveals their push for contraceptives and sterilizations for what they are—an attempt to control the fertility of others. 

Reprinted with permission from the Population Research Institute.


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United Nations headquarters in New York Shutterstock.com
Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

New development goals shut out abortion rights

Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.
By Rebecca Oas Ph.D.

Co-authored by Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

A two week marathon negotiation over the world’s development priorities through 2030 ended at U.N. headquarters on Saturday with abortion rights shut out once again.

When the co-chairs’ gavel finally fell Saturday afternoon to signal the adoption of a new set of development goals, delegates broke out in applause. The applause was more a sigh of relief that a final round of negotiations lasting twenty-eight hours had come to its end than a sign of approval for the new goals.

Last-minute changes and blanket assurances ushered the way for the chairman to present his version of the document delivered with an implicit “take it or leave it.”

Aside from familiar divisions between poor and wealthy countries, the proposed development agenda that delegates have mulled over for nearly two years remains unwieldy and unmarketable, with 17 goals and 169 targets on everything from ending poverty and hunger, to universal health coverage, economic development, and climate change.

Once again hotly contested social issues were responsible for keeping delegates up all night. The outcome was a compromise.

Abortion advocates were perhaps the most frustrated. They engaged in a multi-year lobbying campaign for new terminology to advance abortion rights, with little to show for their efforts. The new term “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which has been associated with abortion on demand, as well as special new rights for individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual (LGBT), did not get traction, even with 58 countries expressing support.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Despite this notable omission, countries with laws protecting unborn children were disappointed at the continued use of the term “reproductive rights,” which is not in the Rio+20 agreement from 2012 that called for the new goals. The term is seen as inappropriate in an agenda about outcomes and results rather than normative changes on sensitive subjects.

Even so, “reproductive rights” is tempered by a reference to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which recognizes that abortion is a matter to be dealt with in national legislation. It generally casts abortion in a bad light and does not recognize it as a right. The new terminology that failed was an attempt to leave the 1994 agreement behind in order to reframe abortion as a human rights issue.

Sexual and reproductive health was one of a handful of subjects that held up agreement in the final hours of negotiations. The failure to get the new terminology in the goals prompted the United States and European countries to insist on having a second target about sexual and reproductive health. They also failed to include “comprehensive sexuality education” in the goals because of concerns over sex education programs that emphasize risk reduction rather than risk avoidance.

The same countries failed to delete the only reference to “the family” in the whole document. Unable to insert any direct reference to LGBT rights at the United Nations, they are concentrating their efforts on diluting or eliminating the longstanding U.N. definition of the family. They argue “the family” is a “monolithic” term that excludes other households. Delegates from Mexico, Colombia and Peru, supporters of LGBT rights, asked that the only reference to the family be “suppressed.”

The proposed goals are not the final word on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They will be submitted to the General Assembly, whose task is to elaborate a post-2015 development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals next year.

Reprinted with permission from C-FAM.org.


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