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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Newsbusters Staff

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Disney ABC embraces X-rated anti-Christian bigot Dan Savage in new prime time show

Newsbusters Staff
By

March 30, 2015 (NewsBusters.org) -- Media Research Center (MRC) and Family Research Council (FRC) are launching a joint national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of bigoted activist Dan Savage. MRC and FRC contacted Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, more than two weeks ago urging him to put a stop to this atrocity but received no response. [Read the full letter]

A perusal of Dan Savage’s work reveals a career built on advocating violence — even murder — and spewing hatred against people of faith. Savage has spared no one with whom he disagrees from his vitriolic hate speech. Despite his extremism, vulgarity, and unabashed encouragement of dangerous sexual practices, Disney ABC is moving forward with this show, disgustingly titled “Family of the Year.”

Media Research Center President Brent Bozell reacts:

“Disney ABC’s decision to effectively advance Dan Savage’s calls for violence against conservatives and his extremist attacks against people of faith, particularly evangelicals and Catholics, is appalling and outrageous. If hate speech were a crime, this man would be charged with a felony. Disney ABC giving Dan Savage a platform for his anti-religious bigotry is mind-boggling and their silence is deafening.

“By creating a pilot based on the life of this hatemonger and bringing him on as a producer, Disney ABC is sending a signal that they endorse Dan Savage’s wish that a man be murdered. He has stated, ‘Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.’ ABC knows this. We told them explicitly.

“If the production of ‘Family of the Year’ is allowed to continue, not just Christians but all people of goodwill can only surmise that the company Walt Disney created is endorsing violence.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins reacts:

“Does ABC really want to produce a pilot show based on a vile bully like Dan Savage?  Do Dan Savage’s over-the top-obscenity, intimidation of teenagers and even violent rhetoric reflect the values of Disney?  Partnering with Dan Savage and endorsing his x-rated message will be abandoning the wholesome values that have attracted millions of families to Walt Disney.”

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f****ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum

  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bull**** in the Bible”

  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay marriage

  • Promoting marital infidelity

  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”

  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”

  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

Reprinted with permission from Newsbusters

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Jacqueline Harvey

Ending the end-of-life impasse: Texas is poised to ban doctor-imposed death by starvation

Jacqueline Harvey
By Jacqueline Harvey

AUSTIN, Texas, March 30, 2015 (TexasInsider.org)  After five consecutive sessions of bitter battles over end-of-life bills, the Texas Legislature is finally poised to pass the first reform to the Texas Advance Directives Act (TADA) in 12 years. An issue that created uncanny adversaries out of natural allies, and equally odd bedfellows, has finally found common ground in H.B. 3074 by State Rep. Drew Springer.  

H.B. 3074 simply prohibits doctor-imposed euthanasia by starvation and dehydration.

Since H.B. 3074 includes only those provisions and language that all major organizations are on record as having deemed acceptable in previous legislative sessions, there is finally hope of ending the end-of-life impasse in the Texas Capitol.

Many would be surprised to learn that Texas law allows physicians to forcibly remove a feeding tube against the will of the patient and their family. In fact, there is a greater legal penalty for failing to feed or water an animal than for a hospital to deny a human being food and water through a tube.

This is because there is no penalty whatsoever for a healthcare provider who wishes to deny artificially-administered nutrition and hydration (AANH). According to Texas Health and Safety Code, “every living dumb creature” is legally entitled access to suitable food and water.

Denying an animal food and water, like in this January case in San Antonio, is punishable by civil fines up to $10,000 and criminal penalties up to two years in jail per offense. Yet Texas law allows health care providers to forcibly deny food and water from human beings – what they would not be able to legally do to their housecat. And healthcare providers are immune from civil and criminal penalties for denial of food and water to human beings as long as they follow the current statutory process which is sorely lacking in safeguards.

Therefore, while it is surprising that Texas has the only state law that explicitly mentions food and water delivered artificially for the purpose of completely permitting its forced denial (the other six states mention AANH explicitly for the opposite purpose, to limit or prohibit its refusal), it is not at all surprising that the issue of protecting a patient’s right to food and water is perhaps the one point of consensus across all major stakeholders.

H.B. 3074 is the first TADA reform bill to include only this provision that is agreed upon across all major players in previous legislative sessions.

There are irreconcilable ideological differences between two major right-to-life organizations that should supposedly be like-minded: Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life. Each faction (along with their respective allies) have previously sponsored broad and ambitious bills to either preserve but reform the current law (Texas Alliance for Life’s position) or overturn it altogether as Texas Right to Life aims to do.

Prior to H.B. 3074, bills filed by major advocacy organizations have often included AANH, but also a host of other provisions that were so contentious and unacceptable to other organizations that each bill ultimately died, and this mutually-agreed-upon and vital reform always died along with it.

2011 & 2013 Legislative Sessions present prime example

This 2011 media report shows the clear consensus on need for legislation to simply address the need to protect patients’ rights to food and water:

“Hughes [bill sponsor for Texas Right to Life] has widespread support for one of his bill’s goals: making food and water a necessary part of treatment and not something that can be discontinued, unless providing it would harm the patient.”

Nonetheless, in 2013, both organizations and their allies filed complicated, contentious opposing bills, both of which would have protected a patient’s right to food and water but each bill also included provisions the rival group saw as contrary to their goals. Both bills were ultimately defeated and neither group was able to achieve protections for patients at risk of forced starvation and dehydration – a mutual goal that could have been met through a third, narrow bill like H.B. 3074.

H.B. 3074 finally focuses on what unites the organizations involved rather than what divides them, since these differences have resulted in a 12 year standoff with no progress whatsoever.

H.B. 3074 is progress that is pre-negotiated and pre-approved.

It is not a fertile springboard for negotiations on an area of mutual agreement. Rather it is the culmination of years of previous negotiations on bills that all came too late, either due to the complexnature of rival bills, the controversy involved, or even both.

On the contrary, H.B. 3074 is not just simply an area of agreement; moreover, it is has already been negotiated. It should not be stymied by disagreements on language, since Texas Alliance for Life and Texas Right to Life (along with their allies) were able to agree on language in 2007 with C.S.S.B. 439. C.S.S.B. 439 reads that, unlike the status quo that places no legal conditions on when food and water may be withdrawn, it would be permitted for those in a terminal condition if,

“reasonable medical evidence indicates the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration may hasten the patient’s death or seriously exacerbate other major medical problems and the risk of serious medical pain or discomfort that cannot be alleviated based on reasonable medical judgment outweighs the benefit of continued artificial nutrition and hydration.”

This language is strikingly similar to H.B. 3074 which states, “except that artificially administered nutrition and hydration must be provided unless, based on reasonable medical judgment, providingartificially administered nutrition and hydration would:

  1. Hasten the patient’s death;
  2. Seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  3. Result in substantial irremediable physical pain, suffering, or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the treatment;
  4. Be medically ineffective; or
  5. Be contrary to the patient’s clearly stated desire not to receive artificially administered nutrition or hydration.”

With minimal exceptions (the explicit mention of the word terminal, the issue of medical effectiveness and the patient’s right to refuse), the language is virtually identical, and in 2007 Texas Right to Life affirmed this language as clarifying that “ANH can only be withdrawn if the risk of providing ANH is greater than the benefit of continuing it.”

Texas Right to Life would support the language in H.B. 3074 that already has Texas Alliance for Life’s endorsement. Any reconciliation on the minor differences in language would therefore be minimal and could be made by either side, but ultimately, both sides and their allies would gain a huge victory – the first victory in 12 years on this vital issue.

It seems that the Texas Advance Directive Act, even among its sympathizers, has something for everyone to oppose.

The passage of H.B. 3074 and the legal restoration of rights to feeding tubes for Texas patients will not begin to satisfy critics of the Texas Advance Directives Act who desire much greater changes to the law and will assuredly continue to pursue them. H.B. 3074 in no way marks the end for healthcare reform, but perhaps a shift from the belief that anything short of sweeping changes is an endorsement of the status quo.

Rather, we can look at H.B. 3074 as breaking a barrier and indicating larger changes are possible.

And if nothing else, by passing H.B. 3074 introduced by State Rep. Drew Springer, we afford human beings in Texas the same legal access to food and water that we give to our horses. What is cruel to do to an animal remains legal to do to humans in Texas if organizations continue to insist on the whole of their agenda rather than agreeing to smaller bills like H.B. 3074.

The question is, can twelve years of bad blood and bickering be set aside for even this most noble of causes?

Reprinted from TexasInsider.org with the author's permission. 

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Only 3 Days Left!

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By John-Henry Westen

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