Dustin Siggins

Former Olympic hopeful calls Merck’s NuvaRing settlement offer ‘laughable’

Dustin Siggins
Dustin Siggins

ROXBURY, CT, March 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two years ago, Megan Henry was one of the nation's top athletes. A skeleton racer, she was training for the 2014 Olympics, with dreams of gold medals going through her mind.

Only months later, those dreams were dashed after Henry began using the contraceptive NuVaRing. She told local news that "within 10 days of taking it, I had a hard time breathing." She eventually went to several doctors and a hospital, where she found out she had “multiple blood clots in both lungs.” Henry says she missed a year of training, and would be at high risk should she become pregnant. 

Made by Merck Pharmaceuticals company Organon USA – acquired in 2009 after a merger with Schering-Plough Corp. – NuVaRing works through insertion into the vagina, and is supposed to remain inserted for three weeks at a time. According to the NuvaRing website (graphic content warning), side effects include blood clots, stroke, or heart attack. The website says that “the most common side effects reported by NuvaRing users are: vaginal infections and irritation, vaginal secretion, headache, weight gain, and nausea.”

After her 2012 experience, Henry joined nearly 4,000 other people in a class-action lawsuit against Merck, including plaintiffs who had lost family as a result of NuVaRing use. Last month, all plaintiffs were offered a $100 million national settlement. 

Henry told LifeSiteNews that amount isn't good enough. “Plaintiffs can either opt in or not, but the settlement is a laughable offer to rectify damages, considering Merck brings in over $4 billion in profit. A settlement offer of $100 million across nearly 4 thousand people is hardly compensation.” 

“Just for comparison's sake, other birth controls such as Yaz paid out over a billion dollars in settlements,” says Henry. She also pointed to how “95 percent of the victims have to accept the settlement. If 95 percent do not accept, there is no settlement.” Merck spokesperson Lainie Keller verified this to LifeSiteNews, noting that “if at least 95 percent of eligible participants as specified in the settlement agreement do not opt into the Settlement, Organon (Merck) is not obligated to proceed with the Settlement or fund the Settlement.” 

In 2013, Merck competitor Bayer AG agreed to a settlement worth more than $1.6 billion over accusations its Yaz and Yasmin contraceptive pills caused blood clotting. 

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According to Merck's settlement website, NuVaRing was created in 2001 and put on the market the following year. The class-action lawsuit was launched in August 2008, after multiple lawsuits were put into one larger effort. 

It appears that the full $100 million will not be seen by plaintiffs. The lead negotiatior for the plaintiffs, St. Louis attorney Roger Denton, said in a written statement that while he thinks the settlement is “an outstanding result and in the best interests of all the women who have suffered an injury associated with the use of NuvaRing,” between $30 million and $40 million will be spent on lawyer fees and expenses. 

“It will be hard [to accept the settlement],” said Henry. “A lot of families who lost daughters are just heartbroken. They feel they cannot morally accept the compensation, and other people just feel they can not accept knowing that Merck is essentially getting away with murder.”

“But there is not likely to be any opportunity to fight this in the future,” she admitted. “It is a very tangled web. You either accept, knowing that Merck is able to keep this product on the market with no repercussions, or you don't accept, and they still win. They win either way.”

The “opt-in” deadline for the settlement was March 10, but Merck's settlement website says that “several parties have requested brief extensions” that “have been granted.”

Henry told LifeSiteNews that “Merck should have been more honest with the dangers of NuvaRing, specifically by providing warning that represented the increased risk compared to other second and third generation birth controls.” 

“NuvaRing has a doubling of the risks for blood clotting incidents compared to other second and third generation contraceptives,” says Henry. She claims Merck, via Organon, knows this fact, but “continues to market the product in such a way that there is no increased risk," which she says "is not fair to the consumer.” 

Keller flatly denied Henry's claim, saying that “Merck has always acted responsibly with the marketing of NuVaRing, as we have with all of our medicines and vaccines.” 

“All combined hormonal contraceptives, including NuVaRing and combined oral contraceptives, are associated with an increased risk of [VTE],” said Keller. A VTE is a “venous thromboembolic event,” which Keller says includes “deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.”

She cited a company study and a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study she says “found that the risk of blood clots for new users of NuVaRing is similar to the risk for new users of” combined oral contraceptives.

She also said “all [combined hormonal contraceptives], including NuVaRing, have a Boxed Warning on the increased risk of serious cardiovascular events.” She pointed to how “the FDA-approved patient information and the physician package labeling for NuVaRing” have provided such information “since the product was approved in 2001.” Keller says updates were made in October 2013 to account for how NuVaRing's new users are at “similar ... risk [of blood clots]” as “new users of combined oral contraceptives.”

In a previous e-mail correspondence, Merck spokesperson Keller did tell LifeSiteNews that out of 10,000 women who might take NuVaRing and are not on “combined hormonal contraceptives” (CHC), a year later “1 to 5 of these women will develop a VTE.”

She also told LifeSiteNews that “if 10,000 women who use a CHC” do so in addition to using NuVaRing, “3 to 12 women will develop a VTE.” Women at highest risk are those “who are postpartum,” meaning 12 weeks past delivery. Of 10,000 women, “40 to 65 will develop a VTE” in one year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), generations of contraceptives are separated by hormonal types and dosages, as well as time of release. WHO says “pills with first-generation progestogens are more likely to produce unacceptable side-effects,” and were released over 40 years ago. Second-generation contraceptives were put on the market in the 1970s, and third-generation in the 1980s. WHO says second-generation contraceptives are more expensive, but “are similar in terms of effectiveness and of side-effects.”

Henry believes “the FDA should make [Merck] beef up their warning label, so women will think twice about using NuVaRing.” She also says “doctors are unaware of [NuVaRing's] dangers, so it is frightening to think what the consequences may be for patients if the doctor does not seem to have any worry about the risks.”

The Merck settlement offer comes at a time of increased public awareness about the dangers of contraception, including a documentary from TV star Ricki Lake about hormonal contraceptives and a 10,000-word essay in Vanity Fair about the NuVaRing lawsuit.

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 6, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Bobby Jindal: I’ll fight for religious freedom against Hollywood and Wall Street

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although other Republican governors have “quickly cowered” when large corporations place the homosexual agenda ahead of religious liberty, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal vowed today to defend freedom of conscience from anyone – whether the assault comes from Hollywood liberals, activist judges, homosexual pressure groups, or even a traditional Republican ally like Big Business.

In a New York Times op-ed that combined constitutional philosophy with political strategy, Jindal wrote those who believe in traditional values are under assault from a well-funded alliance of secular “progressive” elitists from L.A. to Wall Street.

“Hollywood and the media elite are hostile to our values and they tip the scales to our liberal opponents at every opportunity,” he wrote. “Liberals have decided that if they can’t win at the ballot box, they will win in the boardroom.”

The two-term governor had a simple message for anyone who would try to get him to change his position on marriage or religious protections: “Save your breath.”

Jindal said he had already received corporate pushback as he fought for his state's pending Marriage and Conscience Act (H.B. 707).

Contrary to media caricatures of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts – like the one Jindal signed in 2010 – RFRA bills do not create a blanket right for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals. However, a devout business owner would not have to violate his, or her, conscience by participating in a same-sex “marriage” ceremony, a ritual with clearly religious implications.

“As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony,” Jindal wrote. “But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses.”

Jindal's proposed H.B. 707 would add an additional layer of legal protection by preventing the state from denying state funding, licenses, or taking any “adverse action” against business owners who refused to participate in or recognize same-sex “marriages.”

The bill does not forbid gay “marriage” statewide – another, popular law already does that. But David Badash wrote at The New Civil Rights Movement that under the bill's terms, for instance, “Your employer doesn't have to extend medical coverage to your spouse.”

That has not made corporate interests, which often favor left-leaning social policies, happy.

Jindal linked to a letter from James M. Driesse, the Senior State Executive of IBM, who clearly linked its economic participation in Louisiana with Jindal's revising the law.

“IBM has made significant investment” in the state, Driesse wrote, but allowing businesses to deny same-sex “marriages” for religious reasons “will create a hostile environment.”

“IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law,” the letter warned.

Jindal, who is a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, said he is “certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will” follow suit, “but they will not deter me.”

Instead, they should be joining what had once been a three-legged stool of social, economic, and national security conservatives fighting against the Left, he said.

“The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence,” he wrote. “The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly.”

He added that denying religious freedom would rend our fraying social fabric. “A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us,” he counseled. “That’s why religious freedom laws matter.”

His op-ed immediately generated angry remarks from the Left and sighs of recognition on the Right.

Travis Weber, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council told LifeSiteNews that Jindal is “correct that corporations have to do some soul-searching to see if they truly support religious freedom for all, or if they are prepared to tell some religious believers their claims aren’t worth as much as others.”

“Big Business needs to remember that the many Americans who support its services and buy its products will observe how it treats and talks about their deeply held beliefs. All they are asking is to be left alone by the government to freely live out these beliefs in their lives and businesses,” Weber told LifeSiteNews.

“Governor Jindal recognizes this,” he said. “Big Business should do the same.”

Voices on the Left pursued their well-worn line, accusing Jindal of aiding discrimination and giving sanction to bigotry. The feminist, and often vulgar, website Wonkette.com riffed, “This is an important, serious religion in the United States, the God Hates Fags religion, and it deserves to be protected!”

But Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said that Jindal walked the line between conscience and charity perfectly, acting as “both a defender of religious liberty and an opponent of unjust discrimination.”

The Catholic spokesman called the governor's “willingness to publicly chastise corporations, from Wal-Mart to Wall Street, that have jumped on board the gay-marriage bandwagon” as “perhaps the boldest and most refreshing part of Jindal's essay.”

Economic freedom alone is not enough to maintain liberty, he said. “A free society depends as much on the virtue of its citizens as it does any factor.”

Conservative writer Dan Calabrese seemed pleased that “if the radical gay lobby or terrified Chamber of Commerce weenies try to bully Jindal into changing” the law, “they're apparently not going to get very far.”

When corporations demanded RFRA bills be vetoed or gutted, other Reublican governors – Mike Pence of Indiana and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas – “folded like cheap suits,” he wrote.

Yet there was no great difference in the underlying principles of those state bills and the pending bill Jindal has so strongly championed, he said. “Jindal just explains it better.”

Calabrese “challenges conservatives to stop being such cowards in the face of liberal/media pressure on issues like this” and “counter their lies.”

“What Jindal understands is that you treat the radical gay mob the same way you treat a bully on the schoolyard,” he said. “You stand up to them. You refuse to be intimidated.”

Donohue agreed. “He gets it,” he said. “Hopefully he will inspire others to get it as well.”

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Patricia Jannuzzi
Fr. Peter West

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A priest’s response to the gay activist who tried to silence a Catholic teacher for opposing his agenda

Fr. Peter West
By Fr. Peter West

Editor’s note: On April 2, Father Peter West, a Catholic priest and pro-life leader, wrote an open letter at MyCentralJersey.com to Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon defending Catholic teacher Patricia Jannuzzi after she was suspended by her Catholic school for criticizing the homosexual agenda. The newspaper ran a response to Father West on the same day by Scott Lyons, Sarandon’s nephew and a former student at Jannuzzi’s school.

The following letter is Father West’s full response to Lyons, published with his permission. A shorter version ran at MyCentralJersey.com on April 17.

Dear Scott Lyons,

In your letter campaigning against Patricia Jannuzzi, you said you hoped to start a dialogue. Dialogue is good, but what you call “dialogue” is really more like pressure tactics which led to Patricia fearing the loss of her job. Her statements were bold and controversial and would have been interesting dialogue for a classroom discussion. However, your campaign stifled “dialogue” through intimidation.

You may think this statement, "We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity,” was offensive and violated modern standards of political correctness, but it is absolutely consistent with what Pope Francis and the Catholic Church teach. Pope Francis said, “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity,” and “the family is…a remedy against social fragmentation.” Societies that accept the homosexual agenda are in danger of extinction.

Patricia’s comment that "homosexual behavior is a choice ... sometimes violently taught" affirms Catholic teaching: homosexual orientation is not chosen, but behavior is. Choose to be chaste or choose to fulfill sexual desires in disordered ways. Her statements are correct and although they offend you, they are not reason enough for firing from a Catholic school. Patricia may have used some hyperbole using the term “violently taught,” but she was essentially correct about this too.

Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen co-authored a book called After the Ball; How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. The strategy advocated was a technique called "jamming" -- public smearing of Christians or others who oppose the homosexual agenda. You applied this very tactic to Patricia Jannuzzi with your Aunt Susan’s support. Principal Jean Kline, Msgr. Seamus Brennan, and Bishop Bootkoski cooperated in your efforts by buckling to the pressure. They should have had Patricia’s back; instead they threw her under the proverbial bus. Had there not been a campaign by faithful Catholics and other people of good will, Patricia Jannuzzi would have lost her job.

When you compare beheadings and gay relationships, brutal violence is obviously a far greater evil. But both violence and the attack on the foundation of the family, through the attack on marriage as a union between one man and one woman, are evils. Pope Francis explained this as well: "The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself."

Scott, the big picture here is the message of love, repentance and salvation preached by Jesus Christ. Patricia Jannuzzi didn’t judge homosexuals, she judged lifestyle choices. Though we must treat persons who struggle with a homosexual orientation with compassion, we can never approve of disordered behaviors. Catholic leaders should not be afraid to boldly proclaim and defend the truth. When Patricia Jannuzzi did so, it was easy for your supporters to isolate and vilify her with hate speech calling her a "vile bigot who got what she deserved."

Though your tone is much more reasonable now, your campaign against Patricia Jannuzzi has successfully intimidated many Catholic teachers. Even though Patricia has been reinstated, Immaculata High School, Immaculate Conception Parish, and the Diocese of Metuchen still act as if she has done something terribly wrong. They owe her an apology for what they put her through.

They should question how Immaculata graduates end up becoming homosexual activists who fight against Church teaching and intimidate others into silence. Instead, they’re more worried about not offending anyone. Truth will cause division. (Mat. 10, 34-36) While it is true that Bishop Bootkoski did not say anything denying Church teaching, nor did he do anything to defend it. This situation is extremely disturbing: silence is complicity.

I believe those in charge of your formation failed you by failing to impart a proper understanding and love of the Catholic faith, especially her beautiful teaching about God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage, and the family. I wonder if you have even heard of Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I believe that God’s judgment on those who failed to impart the faith to you will be more severe than yours.

Scott, I believe Jesus loves you, but he loves you too much to leave you in your sins. Jesus praised John the Baptist as the greatest man of his times. (Mat. 11, 11) In the spirit of John the Baptist, who told Herod that it was not right for him to live with his brother’s wife (Mark 6,18), I say to you it is not right that you should live with another man as a husband.

Love, indeed, is the highest good, but following the moral law including on matters of sexual morality is part of requirements of love. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my Commandments.” (John 14, 15) My hope is that you will eventually come to understand the emptiness of seeking satisfaction apart from God's will, repent of your sins, and begin to follow Christ's teachings, including those regarding chastity, and that you return to the practice of your Catholic faith.

Sincerely,

Fr. Peter West

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March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
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Thousands to join March for Marriage in D.C. Sat. under shadow of Supreme Court hearing

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

April 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - On Saturday, thousands of pro-family Americans are expected to flock to Washington, D.C. for the third annual March for Marriage.

Organized by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), March-related events will begin at noon, with a rally from 12:00-1:00, and then the march itself at 1:00. Participants will gather at the mall in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.  

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

The will take place in the shadow of what may be the most consequential marriage hearing in American history. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex "marriage," or if states should be allowed to make their own marriage policy.

A related rally, sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom, will take place before the March. The NOM rally will begin at noon Eastern Time, with the March starting at 1:00 Eastern. The rally and March will be live-streamed by LifeSiteNews, the March for Marriage’s official media partner.

"We expect thousands of people to attend,” Frank Shubert, National Political Director of NOM, told LifeSiteNews. “This is the third March for Marriage and will attract the largest group of marriage supporters yet. We have people coming from all over the country."

"Imagine if we could go back in time and rally the pro-life community in Washington before the infamous Roe v Wade case was heard by the justices of the Supreme Court. We have that opportunity now to preserve marriage.

“The March for Marriage is our last, best opportunity to show the justices of the Court, the media and opinion leaders in Washington that the American people continue to support marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and demand that their votes and values be respected and upheld."

The March has drawn dozens of sponsors and coalition partners, as well as national voices on marriage.

When: Saturady April 25, from noon-1:00
Where: The mall in front of the U.S. Capitol

 

Speakers include:

Brian Brown
Senator Ruben Diaz
Reverend Brandon B. Porter Prelate
Josh Duggar
Rev. Bill Owens
Rev. Jim Garlow
Tom Minnery
Mat Staver
Archbishop Kurtz
Jennifer Marshall
Carlos Luis Vargas Silva
Bishop Anne Gimenez (closing Prayer)
Cathy Ruse

Sponsors include:

ActRight
Alliance Defending Freedom
American Principles Project
Catholic Vote
Christian Union
Citizen Link
Crown Them With Glory
Manhattan Declaration
Tradition, Family, Property
USCCB

Coalition Partners:

2nd Vote
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Centro Biblico Internacional
Coalition of African-American Pastors
FRC
Focus on the Family
FRC Action
Heritage Foundation
Human Life International
Liberty Counsel
MRC
North Carolina Family Policy Council
NC Values Coalition
The Family Foundation (VA)
Wisconsin Family Action

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