Fertility is Not a Disease

Throughout scripture, fertility is seen as one of God’s greatest blessings. For example, just look at the sorrow of the great women of the bible who suffered from infertility – Sarah and Elizabeth. When these mothers of two key figures in salvation history, Isaac and John the Baptist, miraculously conceived in their later years, there was no doubt in their mind that God had pity on them and heard their cry. These women rejoiced at being freed from the curse of barrenness.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we see a world turned upside down. Fertility – a sign of health and source of blessing – is now viewed by society as a disease. To the Christian, this worldview is unconscionable. The most recent attacks on our common sense shockingly came last month from what should be the least likely sources of such distress, when two prestigious medical organizations issued very troubling statements.

First, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement advocating that pediatricians make so-called “emergency contraception” available for teens of any age and provide prescriptions “to have on-hand” for the future. The AAP specifically refers to products labeled and dedicated for use as emergency contraception by the FDA, including levonorgestrel (Plan B, Next Choice) and ulipristal (also known as ella, first cousin of the RU-486 abortion pill), as well as “off-label” use of other combination oral contraceptives.

The second assault on our sensibilities came from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) who announced their advocacy for over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives, claiming that these drugs are “safe,” and side effects rare. This is the group who back in the 1960’s decided to “re-define” pregnancy as beginning at implantation. No political construct can change the basic fact of biology that a new human person is created at the moment of conception.

There are a whole host of reasons why giving teens the morning-after pill and making birth control pills available over the counter without a prescription are bad medicine. Let’s look at a few brief examples.

The AAP statement makes a number of false claims, including the assertion that studies on hormonal emergency contraception’s effects on the endometrium (or more specifically, whether they can sometimes cause abortions) are “conflicting.” This misleads one to think that proceeding in doubt when a human life is at stake is somehow acceptable. The AAP also claims that emergency contraception does not “interrupt” established pregnancies, claim it has not been linked to teratogenic effects, and downplay the seriously troublesome side-effects.

It is well established that the drugs used in hormonal contraception have multiple mechanisms of action. Drug manufacturers readily admit this in their package inserts. In addition to sometimes inhibiting ovulation, the drugs may also work by inhibiting implantation if a child happens to be conceived. The one-week old baby is silently aborted before the mother even realizes she is pregnant because the chemical changes in the womb produced by the drugs reject the developing child.

Additionally, the World Health Organization describes hormonal contraception as a carcinogen, the serious side effects of the pill are well known, and the link between contraception use and breast cancer is also well established.

Moreover, the 2008 instruction from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dignitas personae, effectively articulates what is it stake, and their words can be applied across the board to the various forms of chemical “contraceptives” advocated by the AAP and ACOG. Paragraph 23 of the instruction centers on the immorality of “interceptive” and “contragestative” methods of preventing pregnancy. Both are defined as “technical means which act after fertilization, when the embryo is already constituted, either before or after implantation in the uterine wall.”

Mechanisms of the drugs which interfere with the newly conceived embryo before implantation are called “interceptive” (for example, the IUD and drugs like Plan B and others that are used as so-called “morning-after” pills), and drugs that act after implantation are referred to as “contragestative” (for example, RU-486 and its counterpart, ella). Dignitas personae continues: “In order to promote wider use of interceptive methods, it is sometimes stated that the way in which they function is not sufficiently understood. It is true that there is not always complete knowledge of the way that different pharmaceuticals operate, but scientific studies indicate that the effect of inhibiting implantation is certainly present, even if this does not mean that such interceptives cause an abortion every time they are used.”

Further, both the AAP and ACOG seem to think that their efforts will reduce the number of “unwanted” pregnancies. But this is a false perception in society, and oddly even in mainstream medicine, that making contraception more readily available will reduce the number of abortions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In support of the premise that increased access to contraception is like throwing gasoline on a fire, LifeSiteNews reported on a new study from Russia which revealed that higher contraception rates were associated with higher abortion rates. They noted that “researchers were perplexed by this, calling the findings ‘contradictory,’ ‘unexpected,’ and ‘paradoxical.’” Russia continues to have one of the world’s highest abortion rates even though they also have one of the highest contraception rates.

So why were the researchers “perplexed”? In Humanae vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted what would happen if access to contraception became widespread:  increased contraception results in more sexual activity outside of marriage, and contraceptive “failure” results in more “unwanted” pregnancies, which in turn leads to more abortions.

One naturally expects that organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists would be in the business of safe-guarding and helping women and children.

Pediatricians should be protecting children’s health and well-being, not undermining parents’ trust or condoning sex outside of marriage. Doctors who specialize in the care of women and their pre-born children should be whole-hearted advocates for what is truly good for them, not promoting toxic hormones which harm women’s bodies and kill their unborn children.

As the HHS mandate looms over our national conscience, and the battle for our religious freedom rages on, may the Church and all people of good will continue to fight for the rights of conscience guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We have seen the harm done to a society that has separated life from love by embracing a contraceptive mentality, leaving many broken hearts in its wake.

In the Gospel of Matthew (7:9-11), Jesus explains the benevolence of our Father in heaven: Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him.

May our heavenly Father continue to guide and bless the medical professionals whose mission is to serve as God’s instruments of healing. We hope and pray that reasonable doctors will disregard the misguided direction some of their professional organizations seem to be headed in, and continue to uphold the Hippocratic Oath which has guided physicians for millennia, “First, do no harm.”

Author’s note:  For a more detailed study of the postfertilization effects of hormonal contraception, see the work of Doctors Walter Larimore, Joseph Stanford and Chris Kahlenborn available at www.polycarp.org.

Allison LeDoux is the director of the Respect Life Office and the Office of Marriage and Family for the Diocese of Worcester, MA. Mrs. LeDoux serves as coordinator for the New England region of Diocesan Pro-Life Directors and is a member of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference’s Pro-Life/Pro-Family and Health Care Subcommittees. She received her certification in Catholic Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center in 2007.Mrs. LeDoux and her husband, John, a permanent deacon, are the parents of eight children.
Articles by Allison:

  • Pingback: Shakespeare and Distributism | Big Pulpit

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.r.holmes Benjamin Holmes

    I hope that, in the least, Catholics would consider the epidemic of teen pregnancy as a blemish on society. What is wrong with teaching kids about the reality of sex? Too many parents are either absent or give their children the “Stork” treatment.