A Reasoned Response to Guttmacher Hysteria

The Guttmacher Institute, an organization founded as the research arm of Planned Parenthood and dedicated to the promotion of contraception and abortion, issued a statement calling for action to ensure free hormonal contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization for all women. In this statement, the Guttmacher Institute declares that in light of the recent Supreme Court decision that exempts closely held corporations from the HHS mandate, measures are needed to make sure no woman is excluded from the “myriad of health benefits” of hormonal contraception.

What are these health benefits that contraception and abortion advocates claim should trump religious liberty? According to the fact sheet cited by the Guttmacher Institute, the primary benefits are the ease of spacing births, lighter menstrual periods, less pain with menstrual periods and the improvement of acne. What the Guttmacher Institute conveniently fails to mention are the myriad of serious side effects that accompany hormonal contraceptive use.

Picture - Pokorny Article 021513For example, use of hormonal contraceptives increases the risk of the most aggressive form of breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer, by 400%. In addition, hormonal contraceptives double the transmission rates for HIV. It is well established that hormonal contraceptives are associated with potentially lethal blood clots and strokes. In fact, Bayer, the maker of the oral contraceptive Yaz, has paid over $400 million to settle lawsuits related to contraceptive-related blood clots. The National Cancer Institute fact sheet confirms hormonal contraceptives are associated with an increase in cervical cancer and liver tumors. These are just a few of the detrimental health effects that the Guttmacher Institute ignores for the sake of lighter periods and a clear complexion.

The simple truth is hormonal contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization are not essential to women’s health and, in fact, are often harmful. They are elective medical interventions that take a perfectly functioning reproductive system and render it sterile, incurring the risk of serious side effects in the process. This is the antithesis of true preventive medicine that maintains health and prevents disease.

The Guttmacher Institute then argues that 99% of women use some form of contraception during their reproductive years so it must be necessary. They base this statistic on a National Health Statistics Report issued in 2013. In citing this statistic, the Guttmacher Institute implies that because 99% of American women have elected to use some form of contraception at least once between the ages of 15 and 44, the Federal Government has a compelling interest to make sure all women have access to hormonal contraception at no cost. Using the same logic, I could argue that 99% of American women have eaten chocolate at least once between the ages of 15 and 44 and therefore the Federal Government should guarantee free chocolate to women. At least chocolate doesn’t cause cancer or strokes. However, as much as I would like to advocate for free chocolate, the logic does not hold. Both using hormonal contraceptives and eating chocolate are elective, non-essential activities. There is no compelling government interest to make either free chocolate or free birth control pills available to every American woman.

In addition, the Guttmacher Insitute cites this statistic to bolster their argument that a government mandate for free contraception is critical for access to contraception. However, if 99% of women have been able to utilize contraception without a government mandate in place, there does not seem to be any obstacles to access. The Guttmacher Institute is advocating for a solution to a problem that does not exist!

Taking a closer look at the National Health Statistics Report, it also becomes evident that the Guttmacher Institute is exaggerating the significance of this report. The statistics are based on the voluntary responses of around 12 thousand women. However, this was only 77% of those surveyed. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed refused to answer the questions about contraceptive use. Therefore, there is a selection bias in the answers that is not accounted for in the cited statistics. Furthermore, the 99% statistic being touted by the Guttmacher Institute means that 99% of the women who did answer the questions on contraception admitted to using some form of contraception on at least one occasion when they were between the ages of 15 and 44. This includes not only women who have used hormonal contraception, but also those women who used barrier methods such as condoms or a diaphragm, women who used spermicides, and women who used fertility awareness methods like Natural Family Planning (NFP). The Guttmacher Institute is actually counting women who use NFP as justification for a government mandate to provide free hormonal contraception.

The facts do not support the Guttmacher Institute claim that women will suffer if they do not receive hormonal contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures at no cost. These are elective procedures and non-essential to good health. Any health benefits of these interventions are outweighed by serious side effects. By the Guttmacher Institute’s own admission, women currently have no trouble obtaining contraceptives so there is no barrier to access. Hormonal contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization are still as legal and accessible as they have ever been. All the Supreme Court said is that a woman’s desire to disrupt her reproductive system does not trump the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and religious liberty.

Dr. Denise Jackson Hunnell is a Fellow of Human Life International. She graduated from Rice University with a BA in biochemistry and psychology. She earned her medical degree from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. She went on to complete a residency in family medicine at Marquette General Hospital, Marquette, Michigan. Upon completion of her training, Dr. Hunnell served as a family physician in the United States Air Force. She was honorably discharged. She continued to practice medicine all over the country as her husband’s Air Force career kept them on the move. In order to better care for her family, Dr. Hunnell retired from active clinical practice and focused her professional efforts on writing and teaching. She has contributed work to local and national Catholic publications as well as to secular newspapers including the Washington Post and the Washington Times. She also teaches anatomy and physiology at Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus. Dr. Hunnell serves as an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Other affiliations include the American Academy of Family Physicians, The Catholic Medical Association, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. She received her certification in health care ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2009. Dr. Hunnell has been married for nearly thirty years to Colonel (ret) John F. Hunnell, an Air Force test pilot. They have four children and are blessed with three grandchildren so far.
Articles by Denise:

  • Mitchell Kalpakgian

    As T. S. Eliot once remarked, human beings cannot tolerate too much reality. Ideologues like Planned Parenthood manufacture their own reality and ignore the clear, self-evident, irrefutable truths that no sane or honest person can ignore. Superb article!

  • Jay__Money

    Birth control and abortion are two separate concepts.
    One is planning not to have a baby.
    The other, is a war against an invader into a territory where it is not wanted. War is inevitable and is legal.