Planned Parenthood and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) began a new joint effort this week to lobby the Department of Health and Human Services to make free contraception a part of new federal requirements for all hospitals. In response Dr. Thomas Hilgers, an expert in women's health and family planning methods, stated that the plan would not help women, nor promote public health as contraception advocates claim.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already rejected efforts to mandate contraceptive coverage, saying it would violate the religious rights of Catholic hospitals and doctors. On October 14, Dr. Hilgers wrote to CNA from Omaha, Nebraska (where he directs treatment and research at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction) to explain the plan's inherent problems from a scientific and medical standpoint.
As part of her effort to convince the HHS to accept her proposal, Planned Parenthood's president Cecile Richards argued women would not have to “pay $50 for birth control pills anymore” if her idea became law.
But Dr. Hilgers said Richards' accounting ignores the real price women pay, when fertility is regarded as a sickness needing “preventive care.” He noted that prominent side effects of the pill include circulatory problems, breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver tumors, and warned there were “many others beyond this as well.”
Hilgers also disputed remarks by the ACOG's Vice President for Practice Activities Hal Lawrence, who claimed that contraceptive care leads to “healthier pregnancies.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hilgers wrote. “Once a woman discontinues oral contraceptives, the 'time to pregnancy' is longer than it would be if they were not on oral contraceptives. This is a form of infertility induced by the birth control pill.”
Hilgers, who is the Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gyneconology at Creighton University, said he knew of “no evidence at all that suggests that the birth control pill leads to 'healthier pregnancies'.”
He also warned that promotion of contraception, particularly by the federal government, cannot be considered a “middle ground in the abortion wars,” as one research consultant to Planned Parenthood has called it.
Most popular methods of contraception, he explained, actually cause the abortion of a new and genetically distinct human life. Hilgers said that consistent advocates of the pro-life position should instead consider recent advances in natural family planning, including his own NaProTechnology.
“The oral contraceptive (pill) has basically three mechanisms of action,” he explained. “It inhibits ovulation, blocks the cervical mucus and renders the lining of the uterus hostile to an early implanting blastocyst. The latter is an abortifacient effect,” he stated, saying that scientists do not yet know how frequently oral contraceptives cause this form of abortion. He went on to mention that “the intrauterine device is associated with early abortions as well.”
Dr. Hilgers additionally observed that the spread of contraception, and the attendant separation of sex from reproduction, had not improved public health or social stability at the national level.
Instead, he said, artificial contraception had been verified by sociologists as “the main ingredient to the increase in the divorce rate” beginning in 1962, and a primary factor behind the current “epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases.”