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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Where’s the tolerance in San Francisco?

Dan Guernsey
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April 20, 2015 (CardinalNewmanSociety.org) -- Proclaiming their values of tolerance, inclusion, and non-judgment, 100 “prominent” San Francisco Catholics last week took out a full-page ad in the newspaper to tell the Pope and the world that they will not tolerate or include and indeed soundly condemn the archbishop of San Francisco.

His crime? Following Canon law, which requires him to ensure that “Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life” (Canon Law, 803, § 2). He is also condemned for following the teachings of the U.S. Bishops, who have consistently taught that “all members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education…. Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials” (1976, Teach Them, p. 7), and the bishops’ National Directory for Catechesis which requires Catholic school leaders to “Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals” (2005, National Directory for Catechesis, p. 231, 233).

Archbishop Cordileone and all U.S. bishops are bound by Canon law and Church teaching to do what he is doing: ensuring that Catholic schools in his diocese are Catholic. And indeed, he is not alone in this effort. He is joined by similar significant efforts underway by bishops in the dioceses of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Santa Rosa, Honolulu and Oakland, among others.  He is just currently the biggest target in a bastion of the fully-empowered tyrannical Left who will not tolerate any deviance from their liberal orthodoxy.

The sexual dogmas of the liberal orthodoxy are so confused and so consuming that any other understanding of the nature and purpose of human sexuality and marriage, even those views held by the vast majority of humanity throughout all ages, must be condemned and ultimately silenced. To state the clear and unequivocal Catholic teaching that the only proper and moral exercise of the marital act is exclusively in the context of a committed natural marriage in the service of both love and life is viewed by some as a type of hate crime.

These “anti-bully” bullies are doing what bullies do. They are seeking to gain in their own social status and self-concept by belittling, shaming and humiliating someone outside their local social norm. As the authors admit, the social sexual norms in the Bay Area are completely supportive of sex outside of natural marriage. Those who control the culture are dead set on humiliating and eliminating anyone who would not fully support their power and the status quo.

Many other dioceses have stipulations in their employee handbooks and in their contracts related to the need to uphold Catholic teachings in word and action as terms of employment. This is nothing very new. A challenge has occurred more recently, because of the rapid deterioration of social norms related to human sexuality, and because so many Catholics and Catholic school employees are so poorly catechized regarding human sexuality and complex but critical human life issues.

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It is possible that some employees can unwittingly jeopardize their employment by running afoul of the expectations of their employment agreements. In a preemptive effort to avoid such suffering and embarrassment, a number of dioceses are striving to clarify and publicize these expectations of Catholic teachers in a spirit of truth and charity and to ensure that folks do not unwittingly join in an evangelical enterprise they cannot advance, support or—even worse—work against. Charity demands clarity and truth. Justice to one’s employees demands clarity and truth as well. Justice to ones’ employer demands that one should not work against his interests or intent. The more clearly we can all be about what we intend and believe, the better.

It is also important in a pluralistic society, where we should not all have to agree with each other on complex issues and matters of faith, that we leave room for dissent and marginalized thinking and thinkers—especially in the realm of religious thought. Our country was founded by religious dissidents whose religious views and practices did not fit in with the dominant cultures and beliefs of the powerful in their home countries. They came here seeking freedom of religion—freedom to practice their faith as they saw fit without governmental persecution. Archbishop Cordileone has sought no retribution or even disparagement against those in San Francisco who clearly disagree with the Church; he only seeks to protect his right not to hire them to do the work of the Church, a reasonable and just freedom.

While these wayward Catholics seek to drive their archbishop out of San Francisco in the name of the dominant culture, but not the Catholic faith, we must be aware that many more of us are endangered from attack as well in this rapidly declining culture. These same bullies demanding that Archbishop Cordileone lose his job as a bishop for teaching the truths of the Catholic faith will next deem it critical that Catholics lose their jobs for agreeing with him and the Church.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society

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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Rubio: I’d attend a gay ‘wedding’. Walker: I have. Santorum: I wouldn’t. Cruz: Pass.

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Are you now, or were you ever, willing to attend a same-sex “wedding”? That seems to be the question lighting up the Republican presidential field, as GOP hopefuls who may one day have their finger on the nuclear button are asked the query over and over again.

So far, the Republican hopefuls' answers are yes, no, I have (sort of), and...unclear.

The media began by asking Florida's U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, if he would attend a homosexual 'wedding' ceremony, especially if he were invited by a relative or close friend.

“If there’s somebody that I love that’s in my life, I don’t necessarily have to agree with their decisions or the decisions they’ve made to continue to love them and participate in important events,” Rubio told Jorge Ramos of Fusion TV's America program.

Rubio, who became the third Republican to throw his hat in the ring last week, likened attending a same-sex “marriage” to attending the second marriage of a divorced friend. “If someone gets divorced, I’m not going to stop loving them or having them a part of our lives,” he said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – who has not yet formally announced his candidacy yet is considered a front-runner – said that he attended a same-sex reception, but not a ceremony. “I haven’t been to a [homosexual] 'wedding,' that’s true,” he said, “even though my position on marriage is still that’s defined between a man and a woman, and I support the Constitution of the state.”

“But for someone I love, we’ve been at a reception,” he added.

A series of candidates and potential candidates have faced similar hypotheticals.

Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, a libertarian-leaning Republican who strongly supported Mitt Romney in previous primaries, asked two contenders “a meta-question.” Is it more important to know whether a candidate would attend a homosexual wedding or whether a president will “destroy the Islamic State before it throws hundreds of thousands of gay men to their deaths”?

Former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has said he is considering another presidential run, said it was “amazing that the Left has not risen up” against Islamic Shari'a law. “They don't focus their energy on anything except the attempt to gather more power in this country by using this issue of same-sex 'marriage' as a tool to do that.”

Then he addressed the direct question: Would he attend a gay “marriage” ceremony?

“No, I would not,” he replied curtly. When asked why not, he said, “As a person of my faith, that would be something that would be a violation of my faith. I would love them and support them, but I would not participate in that ceremony.”

Ted Cruz, the first Republican to say he will seek the GOP's presidential nomination next year, gave a more roundabout reply.

“That's part of the 'gotcha' game that the mainstream media plays, where they come after Republicans on every front, and it's designed to caricature Republicans to make them look stupid or evil or crazy or extreme,” he said. “Sadly, most media players are not actual, objective journalists. They're active partisan players.”

He called reporters “the praetorian guard protecting the Obama administration” now gearing up to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

Cruz said he had not attended a gay “marriage” ceremony but made no commitments about the future.

“Well, I will tell you, I haven’t faced that circumstance,” he said. “I have not had a loved one have a gay wedding. You know, at the end of the day, what the media tries to twist the question of marriage into is they try to twist it into a battle of emotions and personalities. So they say, 'Gosh, any conservative must hate gays.'”

The Texas senator said that he is a conservative Christian and also “a constitutionalist.”

“What we’ve seen in recent years from the Left is the federal government and unelected federal judges imposing their own policy preferences to tear down the marriage laws of the states.”

“And so if someone is running for public office, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them their views on whether they’re willing to defend the Constitution, which leaves marriage to the states, or whether they want to impose their own extreme policy views like so many on the left are doing, like Barack Obama does, like Hillary Clinton does,” he said.

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Lesbian teacher Pam Strong teaches a classroom of elementary students at Ellengale Public School on Day of Pink in 2012. http://etfovoice.ca
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Lesbian teacher: How I convince kids to accept gay ‘marriage’, starting at 4-years-old

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By Pete Baklinski
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Some of the pro-gay children's books Strong uses with her students. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews
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The chart Strong uses to show her students that same-sex partnerships are the same as male-female families. Pete Baklinski / LifeSiteNews

TORONTO, April 20, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A primary grade lesbian teacher from an Ontario public school revealed in a workshop at a homosexual activist conference for teachers earlier this month how she uses her classroom to convince children as young as four to accept homosexual relationships.

“And I started in Kindergarten. What a great place to start. It was where I was teaching. So, I was the most comfortable there,” Pam Strong said at the conference, attended by LifeSiteNews.

The conference, hosted by the homosexual activist organization Jer’s Vision, now called the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, focused on the implementation of Bill 13 in Ontario classrooms. Bill 13, called by critics the ‘homosexual bill of rights,’ passed in June 2012 and gave students the right to form pro-gay clubs in their school, including Catholic ones, using the name Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).

Strong, who is in an open relationship with another woman and who has been a teacher for about five years, focused her workshop on what she called the “power of conversation” for promoting LGBTQ issues in an elementary classroom. She began her talk by relating how she reacted the first time one of her students called another student ‘gay’ as a putdown.

“With [the principal’s] encouragement, we decided that I would go from class to class and talk about what ‘gay’ means, what does ‘LGBTQ’ mean, what do ‘I’ mean,” she told about 40 attendees, all educators, at her workshop.

Strong related how she began with the junior kindergarten class.

“And I read a [pro-gay child’s] book [King and King], and I started to realize that conversations can be very difficult, and they can have the most power when they are the most difficult.”

“But difficult conversations are a part of what we do as teachers, right? And when these conversations are properly supported by teachers within the safety of the classroom, they provide a rich environment for our students as they unpack these complex social issues and they reflect on their own preconceptions, right, of gender, sexuality, love, all these different things,” she said.

Strong related that as she was reading “King and King” in the junior kindergarten class as a springboard to discuss her sexuality with the kids, she got to the part where the two princes become ‘married’ when one of the boys suddenly shouted out: “They can’t do that! They can’t get married. They’re two boys.”

Recounted Strong: “And I said, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, they can. It’s right here on page 12.”

To which the boy replied, according to Strong: “Oh, yeah, I know Mrs. Strong, but that’s just a story. That’s not real life.”

“And I said: ‘It happens in real life too. I am married to a woman. I am gay. And I am in love with my wife.”

Strong said the young children “just all kind of went silent.” She then told them: “That may seem different to you, how many of you have heard of that before?”

“Not one hand went up,” she related. “And so I said: ‘That may seem different to you, but we’re not that different. Would you like to know about what I do with my family?”

“Yeah, tell us,” she recounted the children enthusiastically saying. 

“I said, you know, we take our kids to the park. I swing them on swings,” she related, telling conference attendees that she could share things she did with her own children that “mostly likely all of their families did with them.”

Then she told the children: “We laugh together. We go grocery shopping together. I read to them. I tickle them, sometimes until they scream and laugh and when they cry, I hug them until they stop.” 

Strong said that at that point, the boy who had used the word ‘gay’ looked and her and said: “Well, you’re a family.”

“And I said, yeah, we are,” she related. “And off I go to the next classroom.”

Strong said that she went from “class to class to class and continued with these conversations, and they were very powerful.”

‘It’s normal in my classroom’

Strong related an incident that happened last fall involving a new boy who had recently entered her grade 5 classroom. The new boy had not yet been made aware of Strong’s sexual preference for other women.

“All my class is very used to who I am. My family picture is very proudly in my room now. On Mondays they quite often will say, ‘What did you do with your wife?’ It’s normal in my classroom.”

Strong said that a conversation between herself and the students came up one day where it was mentioned that she was a lesbian. The new boy put his hands over his mouth and said, according to Strong: “Oh, my God, I think I’m going to puke.”

“As I took the abuse — personally, as an individual – of those words, I also saw half of my class look at me with incredible concern. One student who was right in front of me already had tears in her eyes. And I noticed several other students who were looking at him. They were just very, very upset with this kid,” she related.

Strong said the boy instantly became aware that “something he had said had just created this unbelievable tension in the room.” She related how she addressed the boy, telling him: “I think that what you might not be aware of is that I am gay, and I am married to a woman, and my family has two moms.’”

“His eyes just started darting around, and he was incredibly uncomfortable,” she related.

“I looked at the other kids and I said: ‘Ok guys, what I want to ask you is: Am I upset with him?’ And the one little girl in my class put up her hand — that doesn’t usually get into these conversations very much in my classroom — and she said, ‘Mrs Strong, I know you’re not upset with him, because he hasn’t had the benefit of our conversations.”

“And I looked at my little friend, my ‘new’ friend, and I said: ‘But, we’re going to have one now,’” she related.

Strong said that she then directed her class to the board and asked them to write everything she had told them related to LGBTQ.

“And my class all of a sudden popped up. ‘LGBTQ’ was on the board, ‘lesbian,’ and all the different words coming out there. And I sat back and said, ‘Let’s review.’ So, the last year and a half of ‘inclusive’ education came alive in my classroom.”

Strong told her workshop attendees that her “new little friend” is now a devoted champion of diversity. She boasted how he was the one in her class to count down the days to the pro-homosexual Day of Pink that took place earlier this month. When Strong took a photo of all the children wearing pink shirts in her classroom, she said the boy requested to be in the front.

“For me, that is the power of conversations. That’s the power of sharing our stories,” she said.

LGBTQ classroom ‘conversation starters’

Strong called it “key” to develop a “positive classroom culture” — and she mentioned it often takes months — before getting into what she called “difficult conversations” with students about convincing students of the normality of her sexual preference for women.

She mentioned how she spends time “building a common vocabulary” in her classroom of words like “stereotype, prejudice, discrimination” so her students will be able to more readily conform to her pro-LGBTQ message.

“Sometimes with these big ideas there are also very big words that are very hard to understand. I find that whether it’s kindergarten, right up to grade six, visuals help a lot,” she said.

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The lesbian teacher has amassed a collection of “conversation starters” that she says helps get her started when presenting to her students the LGBTQ message. She said pro-gay children’s books are one of her favorites.

“I use current events, news articles, advertisement are great for gender, especially with Kindergarten kids, pink and girl toys and all the rest of it. Commercials are great, I use one right now, the Honey Maid commercial.” The 2014 “Dad & Papa" commercial depicts two male same-sex partners engaging with their children in normal family activities such as making s’mores, eating dinner around the table, and walking in the park.

Strong says she watches the commercial with her students up to three times, asking them to make a list of all the similarities between the gay-partnership and their own families.

“Of course they think it’s going to be so different, [that] this family is going to be so different,” she said.

Strong said the kids notice dozens of similarities, but usually only one difference, namely that the commercial has “two dads.” Other than this, she said the students “could not find one thing in that commercial that was different than their own families.” In this way she convinces the kids that a gay-partnership is identical to a family made up of a male and female. Strong called it a “fantastic lesson for kids of all ages.”

“There was nothing left for me to teach at the end of it. It was a huge learning for some kids,” she said.

‘Recruiting children? You bet we are’

Though homosexual activists their efforts in the schools as a way of combatting bullying, a number of homosexual activists have highlighted that the movement’s goal is in fact to “indoctrinate” children into accepting the normalcy of the homosexual lifestyle.

“I am here to tell you: All that time I said I wasn't indoctrinating anyone with my beliefs about gay and lesbian and bi and trans and queer people? That was a lie,” wrote Canadian gay activist Sason Bear Bergman, a woman who identifies as a transgender man, in a March 2015 piece titled “I Have Come to Indoctrinate Your Children Into My LGBTQ Agenda (And I'm Not a Bit Sorry).” Bergman holds nothing back, stating she wants to make children “like us” even if that “goes against the way you have interpreted the teachings of your religion.”

In 2011 U.S. gay activist Daniel Villarreal penned a column for Queerty.com stating that the time had come for the homosexual lobby to admit to “indoctrinating” schoolchildren to accept homosexuality.

“Why would we push anti-bullying programs or social studies classes that teach kids about the historical contributions of famous queers unless we wanted to deliberately educate children to accept queer sexuality as normal?”

“We want educators to teach future generations of children to accept queer sexuality. In fact, our very future depends on it. Recruiting children? You bet we are,” he added.

Homosexual activist Michael Swift wrote in 1987 in the Gay Community News that school children would become explicit targets for homosexual indoctrination. “We shall seduce them in your schools…They will be recast in our image. They will come to crave and adore us,” he wrote at the time. 

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