Roundup: “Pro-life” Medical Practices Deny Birth Control Scripts

Brady Swenson

Pro-life medical practices that refuse to prescribe birth control opening around the country; To be truly pro-life the Vatican should lift its contraception ban; Adults need sex education too.

The Reason for the Anti-contraception HHS Regulations … HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt said that the new controversial proposed regulations are aimed to protect the physician from having to prescribe birth control if they are morally opposed to contraception.  The law already allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions on the basis of conscience but the regulations would extend that privledge to allow doctors to deny patients contraception, by way of legally defining contraception as abortion.  Today the Florida Catholic website has published a story about the increasing number of Catholic doctors who are refusing to precribe birth control to patients on basis of conscience:

“Every day that (a) woman takes the birth control pill, she is saying
no to God and she is sinning,”  [Doctor] Rebecca Peck said. “That is cutting her
off from the graces and blessings she would be receiving. I don’t think
people realize the damage it’s doing to them, the health of their
marriage and the health of their family. As long as people are trusting
birth control instead of God, we’re going to have problems."

The Pecks aren’t alone. 

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In November, obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Angela Flippin-Trainer
opened a fully pro-life practice in southwest Florida. Caritas
Obstetrics and Gynecology of Naples does not offer birth control,
perform sterilizations or provide pregnancy terminations.
Flippin-Trainer and her husband, John-William Trainer III, also teach
natural family planning. The practice will eventually offer infertility
treatments and services that are in line with church teachings.

“Basically, birth control interferes with God’s plan, as stated in ‘Humanae Vitae,’” he said. “We’re not to interfere with it.” 

To Be Truly Pro-life, the Vatican Should Lift its Contraception Ban … While the Bush Adminstration considers legally allowing the Catholic Church’s Humanae Vitae to improperly influence federal health policy the Irish Times has published an article warning against the harms of Catholic Church’s ban on contraception.  The article starts with the story of a mother of six who relates the reality of family life without birth control:

"You have a two-month-old on one side of the bed, a 16-month-old on
the other, and a two-and-a-half-year-old in another room. Beside you is
your husband that you love and who has been using his ‘self-control’
for at least four months. Verbal communication is of necessity cut down
to a minimum and cosy chats together are out.

"So you take your
chance and spend the next few weeks (longer if you are breast-feeding)
worrying yourself sick and wondering if you are pregnant again. This is
married life.

"What they never told me is what to do; the don’ts I am familiar with. ‘Use your self control,’ I was told.

your husband in another bedroom,’ my gynaecologist said. Now that’s all
very well for a week, a month or two months – but forever?"

The Catholic Church democratically decided agaisnt issuing Humanae Vitae but the pope decided to side with the minority on the commission deciding the issue:

However, the hearts and minds of even the conservative bishops were
swayed by the impassioned testimonials from married couples who
explained the realities of attempting a healthy sex life without the
aid of contraception. The vast majority of the commission voted to
change the teaching and permit contraception.

Sadly, when faced
with the proposal, the pope took a political decision to ignore the
findings and instead adopted a minority report of the few members who
opposed change. The impact of that fateful decision continues.

ban has been particularly disastrous in the developing world where
Catholic hierarchies hold significant sway over many national family
planning policies, especially in Latin America and the Philippines, so
obstructing good public health policies on family planning and HIV

The world is a very different place today to what it
was in 1968. Then as now, Catholics can, in good conscience, make
decisions that go against church teachings.

Catholics the world
over support the use of contraception, and those who can access it use
it. It would enable hundreds of thousands if not millions more families
to make informed decisions about their futures if the church lifted
this ban – not to mention the impact it would have on HIV prevention.

is one thing to talk the talk on promoting a culture of life – and the
bishops do that very well. It is quite another to respect the reality
of people’s lives. It would be truly compassionate and just for the
church to change this fatally flawed teaching. It would be the truly
pro-life thing to do.

Adults Need Sex Education, Too … It is important to remember, in all our talk about improving sex education for our youth, that the older generations among us have sex, too

Our culture remains largely youth-centred and we often forget that
older people can be interested in sex. And yes, 35 seems old to our
teens. websites for older adults depict their target audience as being
friendly, tender and warm in their relationships, but frequently assume
that older adults have no sex life. Sexual health resources and
websites often focus on the impact of medication on sexual function.
This is important, but if a couple plan on becoming intimate, they also
need information on issues such as sexually transmitted infection
prevention and possibly pregnancy prevention.

New relationships bring new decisions, but some things stay the same. A
healthy relationship is built on respecting each other and open
communication. Partners, regardless of age or gender, need good
up-to-date facts, so they can make good healthy choices and keep each
other safe. 



News Media

Study: Politicians Dominate Nightly News Reports on Birth Control

Nicole Knight Shine

Study co-author Michelle H. Moniz, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, noted that news segments largely framed contraception as a political issue, rather than a matter of public health.

When it comes to asking experts to weigh in on birth control, the nation’s three major TV networks favor political figures over doctors, according to a forthcoming paper in the journal Contraception.

Analyzing nightly news segments on contraception on ABC, CBS, and NBC between 2010 to 2014, the authors found that few broadcasts included medical professionals (11 percent) or health researchers (4 percent). Politicians, however, dominated coverage, appearing as sources 40 percent of the time, followed by advocates (25 percent), the general public (25 percent), and Catholic Church leaders (16 percent).

Sixty-nine percent of news segments on birth control included no medical information, the authors found.

Study co-author Michelle H. Moniz, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, noted that news segments largely framed contraception as a political issue, rather than a matter of public health.

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“Health professionals are an untapped resource for ensuring that the most up-to-date, scientific information is available to the public watching the news,” Moniz said in an email to Rewire.

An estimated 24 million Americans watch nightly news, making it an “influential information source,” the authors note.

And although nearly half of pregnancies in the United States each year are unplanned, news segments did not emphasize highly effective contraception like IUDs, the researchers found. Instead, emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning-after pill, warranted the most coverage, at 18 percent, followed by the daily oral contraceptive pill, at 16 percent.

The researchers’ analysis of 116 nightly news segments coincided with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act by President Obama and continued through the June 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which carved out the right for private corporations to deny birth control coverage to employees on religious grounds.

“We found that when the network television media covers contraception,” the authors observed, “they do so within a largely political frame and emphasize the controversial aspects of contraception, while paying less attention to health aspects and content experts.”

The paper was authored by five researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management and Research in Michigan; and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The study builds on earlier work exposing media bias and gender disparities in reproductive health coverage.

In June, an analysis of prime-time news programs on cable networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC by media watchdog group Media Matters for America found that 40 percent of guests on all three networks made anti-choice statements or identified as anti-choice, compared with 17 percent of guests who made pro-choice statements or identified as reproductive rights advocates. On Fox, guests made a total of 705 inaccurate statements about abortion care over a 14-month period.

The nightly news study follows a report earlier this year on gender disparities by the Women’s Media Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, indicating that male journalists dominate reproductive health coverage, with bylines on 67 percent of all presidential election stories related to abortion and contraception. Female journalists, in comparison, wrote 37 percent of articles about reproductive issues.

Commentary Law and Policy

Here’s What You Need to Know About Your Birth Control Access Post-Supreme Court Ruling

Bridgette Dunlap

Yes, the Zubik v. Burwell case challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate. But that shouldn't stop you from getting your reproductive health needs met—without a co-payment.

In May, the Supreme Court issued a sort of non-decision in Zubik v. Burwell, the consolidated case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers provide contraceptive coverage. The ruling leaves some very important legal questions unanswered, but it is imperative that criticism of the Court for “punting” or leaving women in “limbo” not obscure the practical reality: that the vast majority of people with insurance are currently entitled to contraception without a co-payment—that includes people, for the most part, who work for religiously affiliated organizations.

Two years ago, hyperbole in response to the Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—that, for example, the Court had ruled your boss can block your birth control—led too many people to believe the contraceptive coverage requirement was struck down. It wasn’t. The Zubik decision provides a good opportunity to make sure that is understood.

If people think they don’t have birth control coverage, they won’t use it. And if they don’t know what coverage is legally required, they won’t know when their plans are not in compliance with the law and overcharging them for contraceptives or other covered services, perhaps unintentionally. The point of the contraceptive coverage rule is to make it as easy as possible to access contraceptives—studies show seemingly small obstacles prevent consistent use of the most effective contraceptives. Eliminating financial barriers isn’t enough if informational ones undermine the goal.

The most important thing to know is that most health plans are currently required to cover reproductive health services without a co-payment, including:

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  • One version of every kind of FDA-approved contraception—that is, only the generic or the brand-name version of the contraceptive could be covered, but at least one must be. So you shouldn’t be paying a co-payment whether you use the pill, the patch, the shot, or want long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like an IUD, which is more expensive, but most effective.
  • Screening for HIV and high-risk strains of HPV
  • An annual well-woman visit
  • Breastfeeding counseling and supplies like pumps

There are exceptions, but most plans should be covering these services without a co-payment. Don’t assume that because you work for Hobby Lobby or Notre Dame—or any other religiously affiliated employer—that you don’t currently have coverage.

The original contraceptive coverage rule had an “exemption” for church-type groups (on the somewhat dubious theory that such groups primarily employ individuals who would share their employers’ objection to contraception). When other kinds of organizations, which had religious affiliations but didn’t primarily employ individuals of that same religion, objected to providing contraceptive coverage, the Obama administration came up with a plan to accommodate them while still making sure women get contraceptive coverage.

This “accommodation” is a workaround that transfers the responsibility to provide contraceptive coverage from the employer to the insurance company. After the employer fills out a form noting it objects to providing contraception, the insurance company must reach out to the employee and provide separate coverage that the objecting organization doesn’t pay for or arrange.

This accommodation was originally available only to nonprofit organizations. But dozens of for-profits, like Hobby Lobby, sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—arguing that their owners were religious people whose beliefs were also burdened by the company having to provide coverage.

The Hobby Lobby decision did not say your boss’s religious belief trumps your right to a quality health plan. What the Court did was point to the existence of the accommodation for nonprofits as proof that the government could achieve its goals of ensuring coverage of contraception through a workaround already in place to give greater protection to objectors. Basically, the Court told the government to give the for-profits the same treatment as the nonprofits.

The Hobby Lobby decision states explicitly that the effect of this on women should be “precisely zero.” The Obama administration subsequently amended the contraceptive regulations, making coverage available to employees of companies like Hobby Lobby available through the accommodation. Hobby Lobby added some headaches for administrators and patients, but it did not eliminate the contraceptive coverage rule.

Next, however, the nonprofits went on to argue to the Supreme Court and the public that the accommodation the Court had seemed to bless in Hobby Lobby also violated RFRA—because having to fill out a form, which notified the government that they objected to contraceptive coverage and identifying their insurers, would substantially burden their religious beliefs.

Following oral arguments in Zubik, the eight-member Supreme Court issued a highly unusual order: It asked the parties to respond to its proposed modification of the accommodation, in which the government would not require objecting nonprofits to self-certify that they oppose contraception nor to identify their insurers. The government would take an organization’s decision to contract for a health plan that does not cover contraception to be notice of a religious objection and go ahead with requiring the insurer to provide it instead.

The petitioners’ response to the Court’s proposed solution was “Yes, but…” They said the Court’s plan would be fine so long as the employee had to opt into the coverage, use a separate insurance card, and jump through various other hoops—defeating the goal of providing “seamless” contraceptive coverage through the accommodation.

When the Court issued its decision in Zubik, it ignored the “but.” It characterized the parties as being in agreement and sent the cases back to the lower courts to work out the compromise.

The Court told the government it could consider itself on notice of the petitioners’ objections and move forward with getting separate contraceptive coverage to the petitioners’ employees, through the accommodation process, but without the self-certification form. How the government will change the accommodation process, and whether it will satisfy the petitioners, are open questions. The case could end up back at the Supreme Court if the petitioners won’t compromise and one of the lower courts rules for them again. But for prospective patients, the main takeaway is that the Court ruled the government can move forward now with requiring petitioners’ insurers to provide the coverage that the petitioners won’t.

So—if your plan isn’t grandfathered, and you don’t work for a church or an organization that has sued the government, your insurance should be covering birth control without a co-payment. (If your plan is grandfathered and your employer makes a change to that plan, then those formerly grandfathered plans would be subject to the same contraceptive coverage requirements.) If you do work for one of the nonprofit petitioners, the government should be making contraceptive coverage available even before the litigation is resolved. And in some cases, employees of the petitioners already have coverage. Notre Dame, for example, initially accepted the accommodation before being pressured by off-campus contraception opponents to sue, so its insurer is currently providing Notre Dame students and employees coverage.

Don’t despair about the Supreme Court’s gutting access to contraception. Assume that you have coverage. The National Women’s Law Center has great resources here for finding out if your plan is required to cover contraception and how to address it with your insurance plan if it isn’t in compliance, and a hotline to call if you need help. The fact that equitable coverage of women’s health care is the new status quo is a very big deal that can be lost in the news about the unprecedented litigation campaign to block access to birth control and attacks on Obamacare more generally. Seriously, tell your friends.