Former Olympic hopeful calls Merck’s NuvaRing settlement offer ‘laughable’
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.
Pope’s exhortation is a ‘breach’ with Catholic Tradition: leading German philosopher
April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent Catholic philosopher and close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said Thursday that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a “breach” with Catholic tradition and directly contradicts the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II in his exhortation Familiaris Consortio.
"If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order."
Professor Robert Spaemann told the Catholic News Agency’s German branch that changing the Church’s sacramental practice would be “a breach with its essential anthropological and theological teaching on human marriage and sexuality.”
“It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that [with Amoris Laetitia] there is a breach” with the Church’s Tradition, Spaemann said.
The professor’s remarks were translated by Dr. Maike Hickson in an article at OnePeterFive.
In Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II upheld the Church’s longstanding approach to the question of admitting to the Sacraments remarried divorcees, by writing:
…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
Footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia seemingly contradicts the above passage by asserting that in certain cases, integrating back into the Church the divorced and remarried and others in “irregular” situations “can include the help of the sacraments.” The footnote then mentions both Confession and the Eucharist.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan criticized Amoris Laetitia for its lack of clarity on the subject. “Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church,” wrote Schneider.
Spaemann also condemned the exhortation’s seeming embrace of “situation ethics” as opposed to universal norms and its call to not judge people’s actions that directly contradict the Church’s sexual ethics.
“When it comes to sexual relations which are in objective contradiction to the Christian order of life, I would like to know from the pope after which time period and under which conditions such an objectively sinful behavior becomes a conduct which is pleasing to God,” said Spaemann.
By turning “chaos into principle” with “one stroke of a pen,” Pope Francis is leading the Church “into the direction of schism,” Spaemann said—and he warned that such a schism would not be “at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church.”
Spaemann also warned that Amoris Laetitia may be used to bully faithful priests. He wrote:
Each individual cardinal, as well as each bishop and each priest is now called to preserve in his field of authority the Catholic Sacramental Order and to confess it publicly. If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order.
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Federally funded community health center may have illegally performed abortions: Report
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A federally qualified health center (FQHC) apparently performed abortions, although nearly all federal funds are forbidden from being used for that purpose, sources tell LifeSiteNews. Now, pro-life congressmen are demanding further investigations into the use of U.S. taxpayer funds to promote abortion-on-demand.
The issue came to light when a federal inspector general's report found that six Americorps volunteers had been acting as "abortion doulas," giving emotional support to women who chose to have abortions.
The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) allowed the volunteers – who received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – to support abortions that took place inside a New York abortion facility run by the Institute for Family Health (IFH).
Americorps “volunteers” illegally supporting abortion at taxpayer expense is an ongoing problem. But there's more to the story.
The IFH proudly advertises itself as a federally qualified health center (FQHC). Federal dollars are restricted from underwriting most abortion at FQHCs, in line with the Hyde Amendment. This does not hold true for the Affordable Care Act, conventionally known as ObamaCare.
To ease qualms raised by pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak and others, on March 24, 2010, Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13535. It states that “the Hyde [Amendment] language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers...I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law.”
Pro-life groups warned at the time that an executive order was insufficient to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, and the law itself had to be amended – or defeated.
Pro-life experts today say Congress must investigate whether the law is being violated and, if so, if the offense is isolated to IFH.
"For years the Obama administration has claimed that the Affordable Care Act and federally-funded health centers do not subsidize abortion, and the president finally signed additional provisions, passed last year by Congress, to ensure that community health centers do not use federal funds to support abortion,” said Arina Grossu, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. “Now we learn that CNCS is violating the law by helping women obtain abortions.”
“This blatant violation of federal law by CNCS and AmeriCorps demands that Congress investigate government-funded community health centers,” Grossu said. “It's time for this administration to stop foisting its radical abortion agenda on the American people and using their tax dollars to do so.”
Pro-life advocates have long said that there is no need to fund Planned Parenthood, because federal women's health dollars could be reappropriated to FQHCs, which do not perform abortion.
There are 9,170 federally qualified health centers compared to about 700 Planned Parenthood facilities, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. FQHCs see 21.1 million patients a year, while Planned Parenthood saw 2.8 million people, the institute reported.
The latest example of federal dollars being channeled to support abortion, the law notwithstanding, has undermined some confidence in the FQHCs.
Rep. Diane Black, a pro-life Republican from Tennessee, said, “NACHC didn’t just break the rules; they broke trust with the American people. My constituents expect that federal funding given to our community health centers will be used to protect and enhance people’s lives, not to be a willing partner in their destruction.”
At least two Congressional leaders – the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the chair of the House Health Subcommittee – have promised they will take action immediately.
“Federal law demands that taxpayer dollars are never to be spent on abortion activities. Not one penny. Period. But a disturbing report from an independent watchdog reveals that was not the case with brazen pursuits by the National Association of Community Health Centers,” said Congressmen Fred Upton and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, both Republicans. “The law was violated and this shameful failure of trust will not be tolerated.”
Abortion lobbyists demand Ted Cruz renounce pro-life leader Troy Newman
WICHITA, Kansas, April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The nation's largest abortion providers, an abortion lobbying group, and an ultra-liberal political organization are demanding that Senator Ted Cruz cut ties with Operation Rescue President Troy Newman – something that only proves how effective he has been, Newman's organization says.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and People for the American Way are asking Cruz to fire Newman as national co-chair of the “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, claiming that Newman supports violence.
“Troy Newman’s history of violent rhetoric and harassment toward women’s health providers is truly beyond the pale,” the three say in a letter to Sen. Cruz, linking to quotations from his 2000 book, Their Blood Cries Out.
“What Planned Parenthood and their cohorts call 'violent rhetoric' is really a discussion of Old Testament Bible verses taken out of context,” said Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue and co-author of the book Their Blood Cries Out. The work establishes the sinful guilt of abortion before highlighting the mercy available in the New Testament for those who accept Jesus Christ, Sullenger said.
The letter also cites a report from the National Abortion Federation stating that abortionists have experienced an increase in “hate speech and internet harassment” since the release of CMP's undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, “which Newman was a driving force behind.”
“What they call 'harassment' is peaceful activism that is completely protected by the First Amendment,” Sullenger responded.
Newman has consistently denounced criminal action and violence of any kind during his decades in the pro-life movement, Operation Rescue said of the allegations – many of which were circulated to prevent Newman from entering Australia last year.
“Newman’s position on abortion-related violence is clear. He denounces violence against abortion providers as well as the violence perpetrated by the abortion cartel against innocent babies in the womb and their mothers,” Sullenger said.
“Attacking the messenger is the only way they have to try to discredit the hefty volume of evidence against them. This most recent attack is all about manipulating the public’s perception against those who exposed Planned Parenthood in order to deflect attention from their own crimes.”
But the three groups poured vitriolic scorn on Newman. Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, called Newman's role “completely unacceptable...No politician should be allowed to pander to violent anti-choice extremists without being called out.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said, "Troy Newman is an anti-choice extremist and misogynist ideologue.”
A Planned Parenthood executive said the choice proved Sen. Cruz and his vice presidential choice, Carly Fiorina, are unfit for office.
“It is not surprising to see Ted Cruz embrace this type of violent extremism -- after all this is the same man who has told malicious lies about Planned Parenthood, would criminalize abortion, and tried to shut down the government” to defund Planned Parenthood, said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is what the Cruz-Fiorina ticket stands for."
Sullenger dismissed their rhetoric as “a feeble attempt to hurt the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, who they know will seek to enforce the laws against them.”
Cruz has repeatedly stated that, if he is elected president, he will defund Planned Parenthood – before prosecuting them.
Their letter has led to a number of articles in the mainstream media, including Politico, the Huffington Post, and Glamour. The last publication, a feminist magazine aimed at young women, slammed Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina for vice president, telling its readers to “hold on to your uterus.”
“Not one of these publications bothered to reach out to Newman or Operation Rescue’s staff for their response,” Sullenger said.
This morning and afternoon, both sides of the abortion debate have used the Twitter hashtag #FireTroy to get their message across.
Sen. Cruz has not responded to the call, but the letter implies that purging Newman from the campaign would not satisfy the pro-abortion coalition. “There are a number of coalition members whose records raise serious concerns,” they say.