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Women’s Health

June 1, 2012

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is fighting for the mandate in Obamacare designed force all health care plans to provide free (that is without a co-pay) contraception, morning after pills, and sterilization. She insists that this is a battle for women’s health.

Those who see this as a question of religious freedom have let this claim pass unchallenged. There is however, substantial evidence that handing out free contraception to unmarried women actually endangers their health.

We are in the midst of a pandemic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Giving contraception to unmarried women is like handing out umbrellas in the midst of a tornado. The only safe place when a tornado looms on the horizon is in a shelter; the only safe way to avoid STIs, given the many infectious agents circulating in the population, is to practice chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage.

Here is just a partial list of what the sexually active, unmarried woman faces when she engages in sexual activity and uses the contraception that Pelosi claims is protecting her health.

Herpes (HSV-2) – Herpes is incurable. An infected person can receive treatment to prevent outbreaks, but should inform all subsequent partners and use a condom for every encounter for the rest of her life.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV causes cancer and warts. A vaccine is available, but it prevents only 4 of the 100 types of HPV. The vaccine may also create a false sense of security, because, as vaccination against these 4 types becomes more common, the other types will simply multiply. In addition HPV has been linked to oral cancers.

Syphilis – It was once hoped that syphilis could be conquered through treatment and contact tracing, but because the revolution in sexual behavior it is spreading again.

Trichomoniasis –This STI caused by a parasite and while curable, can cause premature birth if not diagnosed and treated.

Gardnerella Vaginalis  — This bacterial infection is associated with multiple sexual partners and various contraceptive devices.

Scabies – This highly contagious and extremely itchy skin condition is caused by a mite and most often spread through sexual contact.

Chlamydia – It is estimated that estimated 2.8 million new infections occur in theU.S.every year. Chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, infertility and sterility. The woman who thinks she is successfully contracepting may discover that a silent chlamydia infection has rendered her unable to become pregnant when she is ‘ready.’

Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea also leads to PID. In addition, antibiotic-resistant forms of gonorrhea have recently emerged and there is fear that physicians will run out of effective treatments

Mycoplasma genitalium – This is an emerging disease caused by a parasite, and can also lead to PID and fertility problems

HIV/AIDS – Once infected with HIV, there is no cure. While treatment is available to prolong life, the cost is high and the side effects many.

Candidiasis – This yeast infection, while not a sexually transmitted disease, it is linked to the use of certain contraceptives.

Those who think that condoms are the solution for these problems fail to understand the dynamics of condom use. First, some STIs, (HPV, herpes, trichomoniasis, scabies) can infect areas that are not covered by a condom. The only sure way to prevent infection is to avoid sexual activity with an infected person, and how does a woman know who is infected and who isn’t?

Second, there is no evidence that easy access to condoms has ever stopped a STI epidemic. This is because of risk compensation.  Having condoms and contraception easily available convinces a certain segment of the population — who may have previously been chaste out of fear — that the risks involved in engaging in sexual promiscuity are small and therefore the number of people engaging in these activities and the number of their sexual encounters increases dramatically. Condoms fail and more importantly once people become sexually active with multiple partners, although they may intend to use a condom every time, they don’t. When predictable condom failures and failure to be absolutely consistent in use, is combined with binge drinking (unfortunately, an all too common phenomenon) the number of encounters increase, the number of condom failures and failures to use increases, and STIs increase rather than decrease.

STIs are not the only risk encountered by sexually active unmarried women. When they give their bodies, they put their hearts in danger. They allow themselves to be used as sexual objects. Given the real risks, delaying sexual intercourse until marriage is sound medical advice.

So, do Pelosi and friends really care about women’s health or does their commitment to the sexual revolution and the radical feminist rhetoric about women “owning their sexuality” blind them to the real risks and real suffering of women?

All this is not to say that the so-called “preventive” services mandated by Obamacare are wrong because they have negative consequences. Such reasoning would lead to the incorrect conclusion that if society or science could eliminate the negative consequences, the acts would be acceptable or even virtuous. Rather these particular services are intrinsically wrong because they fail to respect the truth about the human person. Like a house built on sand, their foundation is unsound, and they will eventually end up having negative consequences, although these may not be immediately foreseeable. The Catholic Church opposes the services mandated by the Obama administration because they are contrary to the true good of persons. Those, who find this hard to understand, can receive enlightenment by studying John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or reading his book Love and Responsibility.

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