A Bitter Pill to Be Avoided

COMMENTARY: The midterm elections may be voters’ last opportunity to turn away the federal government’s abortion and contraception mandate.

(photo: Shutterstock)

It is crucial for voters who care about the dignity of human life to go to the polls in November.

We need a pro-life Senate.

By 2016, it might be too late to reverse the deadly momentum of the Affordable Care Act and its contraception and abortion mandate, so it is no overstatement to say the 2014 midterms might be our last chance to overturn it. This November, voters will choose 36 Senate seats.

Most of the seats are held by incumbents looking for an easy win, but Catholics — if they make the life issue their No. 1 priority — have the power in numbers to make sure no abortion-loving politician of either party coasts to a new six-year term.

The language of choice has grown much more sinister in the four years since the Affordable Care Act became law. The HHS mandate and its guarantee of contraception, abortion and sterilization covered by health insurance for every American is the most compelling illustration of how “choice” has degenerated into coercion. But this did not happen overnight, and it didn’t begin with President Barack Obama.

When the looming abortion war was just a shadow on the horizon, doctors were already playing God.

By 1965, it had long been accepted that a woman was pregnant from the time conception had taken place. But that year, five years after the birth-control pill was approved for use in the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) changed the definition. From then on, they alone decided, a woman was not pregnant until after the fertilized egg had implanted in her uterus. That is not biology; that is politics.

This had huge implications, as Dr. Bent Boving was aware when he famously said, at a 1959 Planned Parenthood Population symposium: “The social advantage of being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy could depend on something so simple as a prudent habit of speech.”

What Boving and his ACOG compatriots were doing was ensuring that Americans didn’t start questioning the way the birth-control pill worked. Essentially, they wanted to hide the slippery slope to abortion.

Birth control prevents life in three ways: The hormones in the pill can stop ovulation. If that doesn’t work, the pill also causes cervical mucus to thicken, making it more difficult for the sperm to fertilize the egg.

If both of those methods have failed — if life finds a way around medical efforts, as it so often does, and conception has occurred — the pill ensures that the lining of the uterus is inhospitable for the fertilized egg, and implantation is prevented. That’s abortion.

If you accept ACOG’s definition of pregnancy, then the pill’s abortifacient nature is a moot point. But if you believe, as countless people do and what biology shows, that human life begins at conception, this is a monumental paradigm shift.

I was devastated when the full impact of how contraception works struck me. I felt as if the planet had tilted on its axis.

My painful epiphany happened at Disney World. I had taken the pill for the first two years of my marriage. Almost immediately after I stopped, I became pregnant with my first daughter. My twin girls followed not even two years later. I was young and fertile.

Decades later, at the Epcot Center, watching a video called The Making of Me, it struck me that, during those two years on the pill, I could have — and very likely did — conceived a child or many children. I was overcome by grief for the life I had, unwittingly, destroyed. Now, after working in the pro-life movement for more than 20 years, I know that I am not alone in the sorrow I felt over contracepting my children out of existence. I did not have a surgical abortion, but I swallowed the lie that the pill was harmless and would guarantee a future of my choosing.

I never could have imagined 10 years ago, when I had my Epcot epiphany, the crossroads at which we stand today. “Abortifacient” has become a familiar word that was even debated at the Supreme Court when the Hobby Lobby case was heard. With questions of contraception at the center of dozens of lawsuits, including one in which I am a plaintiff, some people, at least, are finally starting to question what contraception really is and what it really does.

In addition to its abortifacient nature, the pill is just bad medicine. It can cause strokes and blood clots; and since 1999, it has been classified as a group-one carcinogen by the World Health Organization, a branch of the United Nations. The pill is the only pharmaceutical product allowed to stay on the market, even though it is known to be fatal for some women who take it.

The mandate in the Affordable Care Act that calls for employers to provide contraception at no cost to employees paved the way for these overdue discussions of the true nature of the pill and other methods of artificial contraception. The HHS mandate forces nonprofit groups like Priests for Life to provide coverage for these abortion-causing drugs. As a plaintiff in our case against the Obama administration, this violates my conscience and the mission of Priests for Life, a Catholic pro-life organization that follows the Church teaching that states that any artificial method of avoiding conception goes against God’s plan for humanity.

When Obamacare supporters charge that religious fanatics are trying to control women’s sex lives, those of us who believe in the teachings of the Church and care about the lives and health of women and their children must be ready to counter with the truth. We have been deceived by a medical profession that works in tandem with the pharmaceutical industry, and both have profited handsomely from our ignorance. Complacency is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Another thing we can no longer afford to do is to look at the life issue as just one among many when we are headed to the ballot box. Elections have consequences.

The results of the midterm elections are critical if we want to ward off further attacks on the Church, on the family and on life itself. Remember, every vote counts, and we as Catholics have a duty to vote — and vote pro-life.

We can’t wait for someone else to do it.

Janet Morana is executive director of Priests for Life.