Tag: women’s health

UPDATED: What did the Pope say on the way back from Mexico…?

The headlines this morning told us the following – “Pope Francis Says Contraception Justified in Regions Hit by Zika Virus” (WSJ, Francis Rocca – may require subscription) “Pope Suggests Contraception Can…

By Aleteia Image Department [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Aleteia Image Department [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The headlines this morning told us the following –

Many other articles carried similar headlines. I cite these three because they are all written by journalists whom I’ve known to have very high journalistic standards. All of them agree that he stated that abortion was not an option, regardless of the Zika virus. None of them offered a direct quote saying that contraception is permissible in the regions affected by Zika. Inés San Martín offers this clarification in her piece –

Regarding the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to contraception, Francis said that it’s a fight between the 5th Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) and the 6th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery). But he avoided giving a definitive response.

Catholic News Agency provided a transcript of the entire press event aboard the papal flight to Rome. It’s an unofficial English translation. Pope Francis offers this answer to Paloma García Ovejero of Cadena COPE (Spain) regarding the question of using abortion or “avoiding pregnancy” in these areas.

Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape. Don’t confuse the evil of avoiding pregnancy by itself, with abortion. Abortion is not a theological problem, it is a human problem, it is a medical problem. You kill one person to save another, in the best case scenario. Or to live comfortably, no? It’s against the Hippocratic oaths doctors must take. It is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil in the beginning, no, it’s a human evil. Then obviously, as with every human evil, each killing is condemned. On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear. I would also urge doctors to do their utmost to find vaccines against these two mosquitoes that carry this disease. This needs to be worked on.

Admittedly, the Pope cautions to not “confuse” and in fact seems to offer a confusing,  not-clear answer. What is clear is that the only way one can understand this to be an endorsement of contraception would be to equivocate the meaning of the term “avoiding pregnancy.” He refers to a specific example of Paul VI reportedly allowing some nuns in specific conflict ridden areas who were at high risk of being raped to use contraceptives. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard of this case many times and have yet to see the documentation on it. Regardless, it’s a very, very specific use of contraception, one in which the women in question are leading celibate lives to start with.

UPDATE: Here is the official Vatican version in Italian. Still somewhat confusing. No change in the teaching on contraception. 

UPDATE: For those interested in the specifics of the case allowing contraception by Paul VI, as far as I can tell it was allowed under the teaching of Paul VI. It’s still not clear that he directly approved it. Regardless, I don’t see any problem with it other than that I think more should be done to protect nuns in these situations… But that’s just my opinion. Here’s one summary article in Italian. In English, you can get the book Ethics of Procreation and the Defense of Human Life: Contraception, Artificial Fertilization, and Abortion, by Martin Rhonheimer. You can find a preview of the section in question here.

And it seems that the Pope might also be thinking of fertility awareness (natural family planning) or simply abstinence,  in which case “avoiding pregnancy” would not be wrong in and of itself. With due respect to CNA’s work to provide a transcript, I’ll leave it to you to look up the sections on civil unions and Donald Trump. It’s easy to see why there’s confusion. At the same time, the Pope cloaks his answers in all sorts of conditions.

Here’s the lens I would offer. It’s a confusing transcript and sometimes he speaks in ways that lead different listeners to arrive at their own varied conclusions. It strikes me that he’s very Jesuitical in his thinking. By this I mean that he’s thinking of every possible scenario when asked a question…and he seems to do a lot of thinking out loud…which causes serious confusion. It creates headlines that stay emblazoned in the memory of a world which is supposed to have a short term memory. It creates work for every type of Catholic leader and teacher – clerical, religious, and lay.

But he’s not changing Church teaching. In order to do that he would have to promulgate the change in a way that is accessible to everyone, starting with the Bishops. It would also have to be clearly enunciated in an official document and it would have to be a teaching that could be changed, something like allowing girls to be altar servers. Interviews on a plane hardly fit the description.

Yes, these statements cause headaches for some and celebrations for others. But faithful Catholics and others of good will need to remember to not take things at face value when they’re first reported. It’s always important to do one’s research.

I look forward to the official Vatican transcript and the official English translation. It will be helpful to compare the two.

In the meantime, I can see why the journalists reported as they did. They acknowledged the confusion while at the same time did not offer any direct quotes. That in itself is a huge help to a careful reader looking to understand a situation. It also points to the fact that a solid argument could be made that the Pope needs to be more precise in his statements.

Nevertheless, I look back at our first Pope, St. Peter. I see what he’s recorded as saying in the New Testament. So very often, he’s wrong. But he was still the Pope and carried out his office in a saintly way even if his soundbites weren’t so good.

No Comments on UPDATED: What did the Pope say on the way back from Mexico…?

6 Things You Need To Know About The Zika Virus

Various people subscribe to the maxim, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, considering the Zika virus, it looks like the proponents of abortion and contraception see the current crisis as…

James D. Gathany - The Public Health Image Library , ID#444, PD-USGOV-HHS-CDC. Various people subscribe to the maxim, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, considering the Zika virus, it looks like the proponents of abortion and contraception see the current crisis as an opportunity to push their agenda. As usual, this is a band-aid approach to human well being and development. These treatments mask the real issues. In the case of the Zika virus, here are some things to consider.

First, we really don’t know the numbers of fetuses that will be affected by Zika. At this point, it’s somewhat speculative. Check out this article from CNN.

According to the Brazil Ministry of Health, from November 8 through January 30, 404 babies were born with microcephaly, an unusually high number. Seventeen of these cases have been linked to Zika. Authorities are investigating another 3,670 suspected cases of microcephaly.

So only 17 of the cases have been linked to Zika? Out of 404? That’s 4%. Is there another cause? Or is this all hype? Taken with the fact that authorities are investigating another 3,670 suspected cases indicates that this could be hysteria rather than epidemic, admittedly understandable in the current media climate. But keep in mind that 96% of the cases of microcephaly in the numbers cited by the Brazil Ministry of Health were not attributed to Zika.

Secondly, throughout the recent week of various interviews, I’ve heard doctors say that no one wants a disabled child. Well, yes and no. No sane person wants to cause a child to be disabled. But that’s not the same thing as not wanting a disabled child. For those of you who missed the Today Show’s heartwarming story about the family that takes in hospice infants and children, click here. Think carefully. You and I both know people who lovingly raise children with disabilities. There are even people who have children with Zika and are grateful for them. And there are people with Zika who are happy to be alive. 24 year-old Brazilian journalist Ana Carolina Carceres is one of them. (Here’s a Spanish-language BBC interview with her.)

Several years ago, I was contacted by a sidewalk counselor who was working with a woman who would not abort her Down Syndrome child if she could find a couple to adopt the child. Some friends of mine – three families with children of their own – all said that they would happily parent the child when born. I followed up with the counselor. She replied, “I have over 600 families who have reached out to me saying that they will adopt the child.” But “no one wants a disabled child.” Yeah. Right. In the meantime let’s get back to the science and some additional considerations.

Thirdly, we don’t know enough about Zika yet.  Dr. Gerard Nadal was kind enough to point me in the direction of the published CDC findings on Zika. From interim guidelines directed at ob/gyns (not the general public), dated January 22, 2016:

“Maternal-fetal transmission of Zika virus has been documented throughout pregnancy (4,7,8). Although Zika virus RNA has been detected in the pathologic specimens of fetal losses (4), it is not known if Zika virus caused the fetal losses. Zika virus infections have been confirmed in infants with microcephaly (4), and in the current outbreak in Brazil, a marked increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly has been reported (9). However, it is not known how many of the microcephaly cases are associated with Zika virus infection. Studies are under way to investigate the association of Zika virus infection and microcephaly, including the role of other contributory factors (e.g., prior or concurrent infection with other organisms, nutrition, and environment). The full spectrum of outcomes that might be associated with Zika virus infections during pregnancy is unknown and requires further investigation.” [emphasis mine]

In other words, the jury is out. But wait. There’s more that we don’t know. From the same CDC guidelines:

“Zika virus RT-PCR testing can be performed on amniotic fluid (7,9). Currently, it is unknown how sensitive or specific this test is for congenital infection. Also, it is unknown if a positive result is predictive of a subsequent fetal abnormality, and if so, what proportion of infants born after infection will have abnormalities. Amniocentesis is associated with an overall 0.1% risk of pregnancy loss when performed at less than 24 weeks of gestation (19). Amniocentesis performed ≥15 weeks of gestation is associated with lower rates of complications than those performed at earlier gestational ages, and early amniocentesis (≤14 weeks of gestation) is not recommended (20). Health care providers should discuss the risks and benefits of amniocentesis with their patients. A positive RT-PCR result on amniotic fluid would be suggestive of intrauterine infection and potentially useful to pregnant women and their health care providers (20).”

Translation – The test can detect the virus, but the CDC cannot confirm that a positive test for Zika confirms that the fetus will have microcephaly. And, yes, there is a risk to amniocentesis itself. Speaking of not knowing, according to Breitbart, Dr. Gubio Soares, one of the virologists to have first identified the presence of the Zika virus in Brazil, has stated that we don’t know if there’s a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly precisely because of abortion. (His original comments can be found here in Portuguese.) In other words, if the babies who look like they may have microcephaly are aborted, the diagnosis cannot be confirmed, much less studied or treated. So much for abortion as the answer.

Fourth, we do have other means to protect people from the Zika virus. To start, we have numerous governmental and non-governmental agencies that could start distributing mosquito netting and mosquito repellent. These are cheap supplies that can be readily made available. But governments could go further. Instead of eradicating the victim, namely the unborn child who may or may not have microcephaly, why not eradicate the mosquito in areas where it poses a grave threat to human life? The pesticide DDT could be used to do just that. In fact it was used to kill mosquitos and to wipe out malaria in many parts of the world. More on DDT can be found here, here, and here. Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan has one of the most succinct analyses I’ve come across. With regard to Zika, Dr. Robert Zubrin makes a pretty good case for the use of DDT. He brings out the stark contrast: mosquitos or babies?

The role of DDT in saving half a billion lives did not positively impress everyone, however. On the contrary, many environmentalist leaders were quite upset. As Alexander King, the co-founder of the Club of Rome, put it in 1990, “my chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem.”

Which brings me to my fifth point. There is an agenda to promote abortion and contraception everywhere. In fact, the CDC now recommends that sexually active women who consume alcohol should use contraception until they stop drinking and decide that they want to get pregnant. Never mind that women have consumed alcohol for millennia while pregnant and generations upon generations of people were born without fetal alcohol syndrome. The last time I saw research on FAS, the fine print revealed that the mothers of FAS babies consumed five or more drinks at one sitting. That’s surely not the same as an expectant mother enjoying a glass of wine at dinner. Nevertheless, the official CDC recommendation is now that a woman who drinks any alcohol at all should fill herself with synthetic hormones or devices so long as she is sexually active with men and of childbearing age. If that isn’t an agenda, I don’t know what is. (For more opinion on this recommendation from the CDC, read Simcha Fisher’s piece.) Abortion and contraception don’t target the virus…

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church faces challenges for her positions against contraception and abortion. This brings me to my sixth point – it’s time to encourage a worldwide campaign for the teaching of fertility awareness. Given that men are generally fertile all of the time and women only periodically, fertility awareness focuses on the basic knowledge of a woman’s body. It’s not rocket science. If the Church is going to be involved in healthcare, she has the unique opportunity to offer something pro-woman that most secular healthcare fails to even acknowledge. Yes, the Zika virus may give individuals good reason to postpone a pregnancy. So let’s give them the knowledge to do so in a way that’s compatible with human dignity and doesn’t objectify women. (Cf Humanae Vitae, n. 17)

Professor Chris Kaczor has a good piece examining the moral framework of this question within the context of the Zika virus. Zika could turn out to be an epidemic. It could also turn out to be the new SARS. [The epidemic that wasn’t.] Regardless, we need to be guided by science and the principles of human dignity, not agendas of any sort, including those to promote abortion and contraception. In other words, when it comes to the Zika virus, target the mosquitos and the virus, not women and unborn babies.

No Comments on 6 Things You Need To Know About The Zika Virus

War on Women? Try 2 Million Contacts. 100,000 Hours. Countless Lives Transformed.

Heartbeat International, a global network of pregnancy centers, has been able to confirm that it received its 2 millionth caller to its 24/7 help center, OptionLine. For eleven years, Heartbeat…

Image courtesy of Heartbeat International.

Heartbeat International, a global network of pregnancy centers, has been able to confirm that it received its 2 millionth caller to its 24/7 help center, OptionLine.

For eleven years, Heartbeat has worked round the clock, literally. OptionLine is always open; there is always someone there to answer a call, text, email, or IM. Always.

Full disclosure – I’m on the board of Heartbeat. I’m honored to have been asked to serve.

You see, I’m fully committed to women’s rights and the advancement of women. In my experience abortion doesn’t do much for women. Maybe it’s a band-aid solution to a particular crisis, but most women who have abortions feel as if they have no choice. Many go on to feel that their lives were not necessarily improved.

Now there are lots of ways to fight abortion. We absolutely need legal and legislative efforts. But we also need efforts to meet women who are faced with a crisis pregnancy right here. Right now. And that’s the work of Heartbeat, through OptionLine, through its network of about 1800 affiliates in 50 countries around the world and its service to over 2400 pregnancy help ministries.

Heartbeat’s efforts mean that a time when pro-abortion advocates are declaring that anyone disagreeing with them is waging a war on women there’s actually someone who has sidestepped the chaos of political theater to actually be there for real women.

Is there a war on women? I think so. Look at the currently proposed Senate Bill (S196), often called the Blumenthal Bill for the senator who sponsored it.

S1696, if passed, would, for example:

  • Do away with states laws banning abortions before 20 weeks.
  • Protect discriminatory abortions that are carried out on the basis of sex/gender or disability. (Tell me, how does that protect girl children? Or any child.)
  • Make it more difficult for states to stop telemedicine abortions and require a doctor to be physically present for any type of an abortion, including a medical abortion. In other words, a young girl, say 14, would be able to be diagnosed and advised by a doctor who’s 3000 miles away. Any woman could be. I don’t know about you, but especially when it comes to a significant medical procedure, I prefer a doctor who’s there in person. But women who are disadvantaged or in crisis might have to settle for a doctor 3000 miles away if S196 makes it all the easier for medicine to be practiced remotely.
  • Likely affect ultrasound requirements. Hmmmm…sounds rather paternalistic to me. It suggests that a woman is not capable of knowing what’s going on in her own body much less that she is able to make an informed decision. Oh, yes, because when women have full information, many of them choose to not have an abortion.

The bill would adversely impact women’s health in many other ways. These are just a few.

But the point remains. Where are the supporters of S196 when it comes to a woman who’s overwhelmed by her pregnancy because she lacks the resources – economic, emotional, medical, etc? They can’t be reached.

But Option Line, privately funded and responding to about 15,000 contacts a month, is there. Always.

Early a week ago Wednesday, just after midnight, at 12.08 a.m., an OptionLine consultant was there to take a call from a young woman facing the challenges and difficulties of an unplanned pregnancy. At a time when most of us are asleep, there was someone to listen and to help. That consultant was able to connect the young woman to a local pregnancy help center, a Heartbeat affiliate. We don’t yet know the outcome of this client’s visit; but someone was there for her.

Which makes me ask, just who is fighting the war on women?


No Comments on War on Women? Try 2 Million Contacts. 100,000 Hours. Countless Lives Transformed.

Women’s Health=Pelvic Politics

Over at CatholicVote.org, Patrick Thornton has a great post on how “women’s health” has very little to do with anything but efforts to make sure that women don’t have babies….

Over at CatholicVote.org, Patrick Thornton has a great post on how “women’s health” has very little to do with anything but efforts to make sure that women don’t have babies. I couldn’t agree more.

During the Beijing Women’s Conference in 1995 (UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women), Pope John Paul II sent a delegation representing the Holy See that was headed by Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon. The UN, with the help of the US, pushed an agenda that limited women’s issues/rights to the themes of abortion and contraception.

Apparently, when the Pope saw the draft document from the conference he commented that a document that focused so much on women’s reproductive issues should focus at least as much on women’s literacy.

Something’s wrong when women’s issues and women’s health are reduced to making sure that women don’t get pregnant…

No Comments on Women’s Health=Pelvic Politics

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search