Michael New

Studies showing benefits of contraception fall short

Michael New
By Michael New

March 15, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com)—In recent weeks, a number of media outlets have been touting studies which purportedly show that greater access to contraception lowers both abortion rates and the rate of unintended pregnancies. In fairness, some of these studies are a step up from the research that the Guttmacher Institute typically publishes. Some have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and analyze actual data. Unfortunately, the evidence they provide is far from conclusive.

For instance, Mother Jones and the blog Faith in Public Life both recently cited two separate studies which showed that women who obtained greater quantities of birth-control pills were more likely to continue using birth control. Both studies appeared in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. One analyzed women from El Paso, Texas, and the other looked at women from California.

The obvious problem with both studies is that the women who obtain a larger quantify of birth-control pills might be different from the other women in the study. That is, women who obtain a large quantity of birth control might be more committed to their decision not to have children. Conversely, women who obtain smaller quantities of contraception might be less certain of their short-term childbearing plans. There exist other problems with these studies as well. For instance, the study of El Paso women only analyzes discontinuation rates. It does not specifically analyze how the quantity of contraception provided affects either abortion rates or the rates of unintended pregnancies.

Now, the California study is more interesting. It did analyze both abortion rates and pregnancy rates. However, the results were inconsistent. Women who obtained three months’ supply of birth-control pills were actually more likely to get pregnant and obtain an abortion than women who obtained only one month of birth-control pills. Only among the cohort that received a year’s worth of birth-control pills were there reductions in both the pregnancy rate and abortion rate. However, again it is possible that the differences were due to the attitudes of those women who obtained a year’s supply of birth control rather than the actual availability of the contraception itself.

Last week, the New York Times got in on the act. On their Economix blog they touted an analysis by Adam Thomas of the Brookings Institution. He argues that a media campaign, improved sex-education classes, and expanded access to contraception would all significantly reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies. The research he cited on contraception was interesting. A Brookings study analyzed states that received waivers to expand their Medicaid family-planning services. They found these expansions led to small but statistically significant increases in contraceptive use and decreases in the birth rate for teens and non-teens.

However, these results should be interpreted with caution. First, the Brookings study did not appear in an academic journal and hence, has not made it through the peer-review process. Second, states that received waivers to expand their Medicaid family-planning programs might be different from other states. For instance, states with resources for a Medicaid expansion might be performing better economically. Greater contraceptive use could come from women having more disposable income or women making a greater effort to prevent pregnancy to take advantage of better employment opportunities. Also, the results might reflect the fact that states which are expanding Medicaid family-planning programs might be more politically liberal and have contraceptive usage rates that are rising faster than other states.

Taking the results of the Brookings study at face value, they still show that expansions in Medicaid family-planning programs caused only relatively small changes in both contraceptive usage rates and birth rates. These results are consistent with previous research by both Guttmacher and the CDC which shows that a small percentage of sexually active women forgo contraception due to either the cost or lack of availability. All in all, the ability of government programs to increase contraceptive use seems very limited.

Ever since the announcement of the HHS contraceptive mandate, the mainstream-media spin machine has gone into overdrive touting the purported public-health benefits that will flow from increased contraceptive use. However, they have provided little research indicating that the mandate would either increase the use of contraception or reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate. Additionally, the media invariably ignores research which shows that hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer. All in all, it is safe to stay the main effect of the HHS mandate will be the erosion of the conscience rights of Catholics and others who oppose artificial contraception on moral and religious grounds.

— Michael J. New is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan –Dearborn, a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, and an adjunct scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_J_New. This article originally appeared on National Review Online and is reprinted with permission.

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website, www.babycaust.de, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” Katholisch.de editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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