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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Lisa Bourne

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61% of Americans don’t want Supreme Court to force gay ‘marriage’ on the states: poll

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

February 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- A vast majority of Americans want the government to stay out of their personal affairs when it comes to defining marriage and how they conduct their work lives or businesses, a new survey says. And a great majority also oppose the idea of the Supreme Court forcing the entire country to accept marriage redefinition.

Eighty-one percent of Americans agree with the statement, “Government should leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses,” according to a survey commissioned by the Family Research Council (FRC) and the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).

The poll breakdown also showed that 80 percent of even those who never attend church believe the government should leave people alone in observing their faith when it comes to marriage. While the figures were very high across the board in support of allowing Americans freedom to practice their faith pertaining to marriage, it was highest among Hispanics at 89 percent.

Along with profound opposition to governmental tampering with religious freedom, more than six in 10 Americans also agreed with the statement, “States and citizens should remain free to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman and the Supreme Court shouldn’t force all 50 states to redefine marriage.”

That statistic is especially significant given the Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of homosexual “marriage” this summer.

The survey was conducted by WPA Opinion Research, which polled 800 registered voters from February 2-4.

A majority of Americans, 53 percent, agree that marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman, the survey also found.

The results fly in the face of the presumption for Americans to concede that the whole country accepts homosexual “marriage,” undoubtedly telling a different story than what the media would have everyone believe, said FRC President Tony Perkins.

"It's clear, based on (this) polling, that Americans have not reached a broad social consensus that marriage should be redefined," Perkins told Baptist Press.

A Fox News poll also found last fall that a more Americans oppose legalization of homosexual “marriage” than support, at 47 percent and 44 percent respectively.

A recent Associated Press poll said most Americans favor not forcing the owners of wedding-related business to go against their religious convictions by compelling them to provide services for homosexual “weddings.”

Perkins also disapproved of any effort by the Supreme Court to impose marriage redefinition nationally.

The court "will be at a point of overreach if they impose a one-size-fits-all definition of marriage on the nation by redefining it," he said.

“What this survey tells us is that the American people won't accept the redefinition of marriage by judicial fiat,” he continued in a statement on the findings.

NRB Jerry President described the survey results as "incredible," and also said it is a "slam dunk" for more than 80 percent of Americans to agree that citizens should be free of governmental interference in the practice of their faith, including in their businesses.

"Government has no right establishing speech codes or business codes on marriage and 81 percent of Americans agree entirely," said Johnson.

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The Center for Arizona Policy also welcomed the survey results, further expressing importance of listening to the will of the people.

“It’s clear that marriage matters to voters,” the group’s President Cathi Herrod said in a statement. “Furthermore, the freedom of belief and the freedom to vote for a cause are of the utmost importance.”

“The Supreme Court should not silence the will of the voters,” she said. “What’s more, the government should not penalize people for believing that marriage is between a man and a woman.” 

Herrod decried religious discrimination with the recent examples where Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired from his job and Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman is being sued by the state’s attorney general and the ACLU.

“What should be simple matters of disagreement has turned into government coercion,” said Herrod. “Instead of respecting differences of opinion, the government is now being used to stifle differing beliefs.”

Perkins was confident that Americans will not stand by for the redefinition of marriage to be imposed by the nation’s high court.

“If it dares to redefine an institution as old as civilization itself,” he said. “Like life, the marriage debate will only intensify as the American people realize that they'll be required to surrender their fundamental right to live and work according to their beliefs.

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Cardinal Raymond Burke was one of the principal authors and supporters of the book defending the Church's teachings on marriage that was allegedly blocked by Cardinal Baldisseri.
Hilary White Hilary White Follow Hilary

Synod’s chief organizer seized books by top cardinals defending Church’s marriage teachings: report

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By Hilary White

ROME, February 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Allegations have surfaced this week that the lead organizer of the Vatican’s controversial Synod on the Family in October personally intervened to block the distribution of a book distributed by high-ranking cardinals, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, that defended the Church’s teachings on marriage.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, who became the focus of much criticism from bishops at the Synod for allegedly “manipulating” the process, is reported to have ordered that the books be seized, despite them having been posted through the official Vatican City State postal service.

The highly respected Vaticanist Edward Pentin, writing for NewsMax on Wednesday, said “reliable and high level sources” had confirmed that the book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” was “intercepted” on the orders of Cardinal Baldisseri on the grounds that it would “interfere with the synod.” Baldisseri was also said to have been “furious” at the attempt to distribute them.

Cardinal Baldisseri reportedly claimed the books were confiscated because they had been distributed “improperly.” Those entrusted with ensuring the books made it into the hands of the Synod bishops, however, insisted that the books had gone through the regular Vatican postal service, and were therefore legally protected material, Pentin reports.       

The book includes a set of essays defending and explaining the Catholic teaching on the indissoluble nature of marriage and was intended by its authors as a means of clarifying the discussion.

The book was organized and authored by a group of the Church’s highest-ranking prelates – including Cardinal Raymond Burke, then-head of the Vatican’s highest court, and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – who were gravely alarmed not only at the “proposal” by Cardinal Walter Kasper but at its positive reception among bishops and Catholic laity.

Cardinal Kasper had shocked the Catholic world at last year’s consistory of cardinals by his “suggestion” that the Church change its practice of withholding Communion from people in “irregular unions,” and by his claim that the pope had approved the proposal. The so-called “Kasper proposal” has since become the focal point of a nearly open civil war in the Church in which decades-long divisions between the “liberal/progressives” and orthodox prelates has been revealed by the world’s press.

At the Rome launch on October 6 of a different book opposing Kasper’s proposal, Cardinal George Pell, a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Nine, said that changing the practice or teaching of the Church would be “disastrous.”

Pentin writes, “Those responsible for mailing the books meticulously tried to avoid interception, ensuring the copies were sent through the proper channels within the Italian and Vatican postal systems.” Pentin added that his sources had “strongly” refuted the claim by the Synod’s secretariat that the books had been distributed “irregularly,” saying they had used the normal postal service that is governed according to Vatican state and international law and is known in Rome for its superior service to the Italian postal system.

Throughout the Synod, rumors circulated broadly among the assembled corps of journalists that the highly anticipated books had failed to reach the bishops and had in fact been confiscated on the orders of the Synod’s leadership. At the time, although this strange story had spread widely, none of the principal parties involved in the book’s publication or distribution were willing to come forward.

That rule of silence appears to still be in place; today none of the book’s authors or editors were willing to speak with LifeSiteNews “on the record” to confirm what had happened, and attempts to reach the Synod office went unanswered. It is public knowledge, however, that only a handful of bishops had been able to obtain a copy during the Synod itself.

Edward Pentin reported yesterday that the story has not stopped circulating in Rome since the Synod, despite having been dismissed at a December press conference by Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi. “Since then the allegations have become more widely known and have been corroborated at the highest levels of the church,” Pentin writes, saying that his sources believe the seized books were likely destroyed.

It is notable that the accusation could have a potential of a criminal liability for unlawful seizure of posted materials. The Vatican City State postal service is a member of the Universal Postal Union, a body under the auspices of the UN, which regulates the postal service practice of 192 member states. One Vatican source told LifeSiteNews today that a first attempt had been made to stop the books being sent by the Vatican Post Office, but that the postal workers had refused to cooperate, saying that it would be “unethical” to tamper with the mail.

Baldisseri, appointed as a permanent Secretary of the Synod of Bishops by Pope Francis, has become a public spokesman for the Kasper Proposal and he was heavily criticized during the Synod by many of the bishops themselves, who complained that the process was being strictly controlled to produce a particular outcome.

At a conference in Rome last month, Baldisseri told delegates that “dogma can evolve” and that the purpose of the Synod was not merely to restate Catholic teaching. He also confirmed that the documents of the Synod, including the highly contested “mid-term Relatio” that had called for the Church to “accept and value” the “homosexual orientation” had been read and approved for publication by Pope Francis. 

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Chen Guangcheng contradicts Hillary’s version: Obama admin abandoned him, caved to ‘hooligans’

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer who exposed the brutality of China's one-child policy, is again questioning the official party line – the Obama administration's account. This time he is contradicting Hillary Clinton's story of his escape from home captivity in a new memoir.

Hillary, who was Secretary of State at the time Chen fled his captors and sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy, has steadfastly denied she lobbied Chen to leave the premises, despite tense negotiations with the Chinese. But Chen writes that he felt so pressured and abandoned by U.S. officials, he was “overcome by sadness and wept.”

Chen so angered Chinese officials by uncovering the corruption and coercion of the nation's forced abortion regime that he was imprisoned for years. After his release, he and his family were held under house arrest inside a garrisoned village.

But on April 22, 2012, Chen scaled the wall and ran, on a broken foot, for miles. After going through a series of safe houses, a car took him to Beijing, where he sought sanctuary in the U.S. Embassy.

Hillary and Chen agree on that much – but the rest of their tales diverge.

Hillary spent chapter five of her memoir, "Hard Choices"  “Beijing: The Dissident” – discussing Chen's plight. The light-selling autobiography claims that Hillary got a call on the yellow phone on April 25, telling her about Chen's plea. “I said, 'Go get him,'” she wrote, adding that it “wasn't a close call.” She later told the Council on Foreign Relations that she authorized some “James Bond-ish kind of activity” for his rescue.

But Chen's escape came just days before Clinton was to arrive in China for a diplomatic visit. Chen and those close to him have always maintained that Chen faced coercion to leave the U.S. Embassy – and that U.S. officials broke their word after he complied.

The State Department passed along threats that, if Chen did not leave the Embassy for a Chinese communist-controlled hospital, his family would face repercussions from government officials. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, while denying any wrongdoing, admitted that “U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.”

But in "Hard Choices", Hillary says U.S. officials were so considerate of Chen that the then-ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh “spent hours sitting with Chen, holding his hand, soothing his fears, and talking about his hopes for the future.”

Hillary maintained, “we had done what Chen said he wanted every step of the way.”

Chen tells a much different tale in his newly published memoir, "The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China", portions of which were published by Canada's National Post.

Chen said he was “pressured to leave” after the State Department accepted an “absurdly inadequate deal” with Chinese officials, essentially trusting them not to harm Guangcheng and his family on their honor.

“I hadn’t expected so many people on both sides would be working so hard to get me to leave, without guaranteeing my rights or my family’s safety,” Chen wrote. “No one seemed to be putting pressure on the Chinese Communist Party; instead they were dumping shipping containers of weight onto my shoulders to get me to do their bidding.”

Ultimately, he left the Embassy, filled with “disappointment and despair.” He said he “was overcome by sadness and wept.”

“What troubled me most at the time was this: when negotiating with a government run by hooligans, the country that most consistently advocated for democracy, freedom, and universal human rights had simply given in,” he said.

Those who were involved with the events as they unfolded agree that Hillary's account is off-base.

“I completely support Chen Guangcheng's account,” Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers told LifeSiteNews. “In sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton's self-glorifying version, the actions of the U.S. government were a great disappointment to Chen and to the human rights community.”

“Why did U.S. officials pressure Chen to leave by May 2?” asked Littlejohn, who met Chen's plane when he finally landed on U.S. soil on May 19. “This was the very day that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was to arrive in Beijing for trade talks. To all appearances, the State Department under Hillary Clinton was willing to sacrifice one of the great human rights activists of the world in order to conduct unimpeded trade talks.”

Littlejohn and others familiar with the events have told the same story since it occurred.

“The State Department likes to say now that they played some kind of a heroic role,” Littlejohn told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive video interview at the time. “I would dispute that characterization of their actions.”

Bob Fu, the president of China Aid and a longtime associate of Chen, said at the time that Chen Guangcheng said that “he was under enormous pressure to leave the Embassy. Some people almost made him feel he was being a huge burden to the U.S.”

After Chen left for a hospital, he said the State Department did not keep its promises to protect him.

Chen said U.S. officials were not taking his calls, nor had they accompanied him from the embassy to the hospital, as they promised. “The Embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital,” where his room was surrounded by at least 10 plainclothes guards, he said. “As soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.”

“Nobody from the (U.S.) Embassy is here. I don’t understand why. They promised to be here,” he said.

President Obama refused to comment on the matter on April 30.

Days later, Congressional Republicans called a hearing, where Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, and then-Congressman Frank Wolf pressured the Obama administration to fix the “scandal.” Chen telephoned the May 3 hearing, and Bob Fu translated as Chen spoke to him: “I want to meet with Secretary Clinton. I hope I can get more help from her,” he said. “I really am afraid for my other family members’ lives.”

Chen specifically thanked Congressman Smith and other Congressional leaders in his book.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also criticized the Obama administration's handling of the affair.

“Eventually, as a result of efforts on many fronts, the Chinese authorities had no choice but to allow me, my wife and my children to leave for the United States,” Chen wrote last year. He arrived on U.S. soil on May 19 and is now a fellow at The Witherspoon Institute.

This is not the first time Chen has criticized Hillary's book. He disputed Clinton's assertion that Chinese Communist officials had been “scrupulous” about living up to their commitments in a June 24, 2014, op-ed for The Washington Post.

“Not only has the Chinese government relentlessly persecuted members of my family since my departure, it also never investigated its prior abuses, as it committed to do. And it imprisoned my nephew, who remains in jail today,” he wrote. “Clinton and her staff were keenly aware of the attacks on my family.”

Despite the fact that Chen's account undermines a major part of Hillary Clinton's autobiography – and calls into question her judgment and commitment to human rights – it has made few ripples in the U.S. media. The two primary stories have been in Canada's National Post and the Telegraph of London.

“I bet that most of you have never heard about any of this before,” Moe Lane wrote at RedState.com. “And it’s largely because Hillary Clinton is a Democrat, and Chris Smith is a Republican.”

The America Rising PAC, a Republican political action committee, commented, “while Clinton hides from the press potentially through the summer, no one will have a chance to ask her why Chen’s account flatly contradicts her own – a story she directly profited from by including it in her book.”

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