A pro-life spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops has penned a new opinion column in which she takes on an idea from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which recently supported selling birth control over the counter.
The morning after pill is already available over the counter for anyone over the age of 17 and the doctors’ group says the birth control pill should be sold that way, too.
But Susan Wills, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, disagrees and says the notion that making oral contraceptives (OCs) available over-the-counter (OTC) will reduce the costs of healthcare and of OCs themselves is false. She says the annual visit women make to a physician for the prescription for birth control pills “saves lives.”
“OCs are contraindicated for many women due to their increasing the risk of cancer, heart attacks and strokes. The visit may also be the only opportunity for doctors to test for and treat STDs,” Wills says. “About sixty million Americans have an STD (including 40 percent of sexually-active teens) and 19 million new cases occur annually. Many STDs are asymptomatic and if not treated early can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and tubal pregnancies. Some strains of human papillomavirus, the most common STD—found in 25 percent of teens and 45 percent of people aged 20-24—cause genital warts; other strains cause cervical cancer.”
“OCs cost $9/month at the big discount chain stores. How much cheaper can they get? But consumer savings should not dictate policy any more than avoiding insults should,” Wills adds.
Wills also disputes the notion that birth control is safe for women.
“The World Health Organization declared synthetic estrogen to be carcinogenic in humans, raising risks of breast and cervical cancer. OCs can also significantly increase the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms,” she says.
The pro-life Catholic spokeswoman also says they are risky for teenage girls.
“Research shows that OCs are not very effective in preventing pregnancy, especially as used by teens: Almost half of low-income cohabiting teens using OCs will become pregnant within 12 months,” Wills says. “True failure (i.e., pregnancy) rates were rarely admitted publicly, but now that very expensive long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs)—implants and IUDs—are available for “free” under the mandate, OC failure rates are openly discussed as justification for getting women to switch to the more effective LARCs … more effective mainly because of their significant abortifacient mode of action, by making the uterine lining so atrophied that the week-old human embryo is deprived of nutrients to survive, even if she succeeds in implanting there.”
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She continued: “Research also shows that by increasing access to OCs, rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions do not decline. In Spain, for example, a 63 percent increase in contraceptive use between 1997 and 2007 was accompanied by a 108 percent increase in the abortion rate. Greater availability leads to more young singles becoming sexually active because they think they’re protected from the consequences. A Google search for “risk compensation” will show why.”
Wills concludes: “Instead of basing public policy on insult-avoidance and reducing the price of a harmful product, wouldn’t it be refreshing for policy to be based on sound science and the true good of our citizens?”