An official with the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-life Activities has attacked a federal bill promising to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, characterizing it as a "Planned Parenthood Economic Stimulus Package." She said increased abstinence among youth, not contraceptive access, should be encouraged.
The bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), is titled "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act." Its sponsors have described it as a "common ground" initiative that would appeal to people on all sides of the abortion debate.
Susan Wills, Assistant Director for Education and Outreach in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said the bill is "dressed up" with some funding for after-school programs and "very poorly crafted" efforts to support pregnant students.
However, she quoted Rep. Ryan’s May 19 remarks on MSNBC’s "Hardball," in which the congressman said the bill is "about access to birth control."
"We have to have birth control and contraception offered to these poor women who don’t have access to contraception, period, dot," he continued, saying there is no other way America can reduce abortions.
To this, Wills responded:
"About what you’d expect in a bill whose co-sponsors enjoy a 100% pro-choice rating from NARAL."
According to Wills, the bill calls for grants for "comprehensive sexuality education" and "substantially" increases funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.
"It denies state choice, making family planning services a mandatory Medicaid entitlement in all states, and greatly expands family planning eligibility under Medicaid to all women who are eligible under state law for prenatal, labor, and delivery care," she said.
Wills reported that since at least 1980 taxpayers have been funding "family planning services" at a rate of at least $1 billion per year, reaching $1.85 billion in 2006. She also cited Guttmacher Institute statistics showing that only seven percent of sexually active teens who want to avoid pregnancy are not using contraceptives.
She then said that contraceptives "don’t work very well in real life," explaining that in the first 12 months of contraceptive use, 1 in 6 teens will become pregnant. Contraceptive effectiveness is particularly unreliable among low-income cohabiting teens, for whom the pregnancy rate over 12 months is 48.4 percent for birth control pills and 71.7 percent for condoms.
Wills also wrote that "numerous studies" in the U.S. and Europe have found that greater contraception access fails to reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions.
She suggested that increased contraception access encourages more young people to become sexually active and to have more sexual partners. Such activity also increases the rates of sexually transmitted diseases, which presently infect about 25 percent of teen girls.
"The sharpest decline in unintended pregnancies and abortions since 1990 has occurred among those under 18, due not to comprehensive sex ed or contraception, but chiefly to the growing number of young people choosing to remain abstinent," Wills said in her Friday statement.
She encouraged people to visit the Pro-life Secretariat’s web site for more information and facts. She also encouraged people to protest the Ryan/DeLauro bill and support the Pregnant Women Support Act (S. 1032, H.R. 2035).
The Secretariat’s web site subsection on contraception is at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/contraception/index.shtml