Briefs for mandate suits focus on contraception health risks

By Michelle Bauman

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The pill, contraception. Credit: Jess Hamilton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

New amicus briefs being filed in federal courts across the nation highlight major health risks posed by oral contraceptives, as well as the potential of so-called “emergency contraception” to cause abortions.

A brief filed in Michigan Sept. 24 says the Obama administration's federal contraception mandate “ignores the substantial evidence showing that hormonal contraceptives pose serious health risks to women.”

Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, said that the amicus brief shows “a flaw in the government’s reasoning.”

The administration has failed to acknowledge the “great health risks” posed by contraception, she told EWTN News, and this is a legal argument that has not been sufficiently considered.

The Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Bioethics Defense Fund are working together to file briefs detailing the dangers of contraception in numerous federal cases challenging a new mandate that requires employers, regardless of their religious and moral beliefs, to offer coverage of contraception and similar products in their employees’ health care plans.

Under federal law, the government cannot “substantially burden” the free exercise of religion unless doing so is the least restrictive way to further a “compelling government interest.”

But according to the brief, the government has failed to show that the contraception mandate furthers its stated interest of promoting “the public health.”

The amicus brief pointed to peer-reviewed medical studies showing contraception’s “significant adverse health risks for women,” including increased risk of heart attack, blood clots, stroke and cardiovascular complications.

Heart attack risk doubled among oral contraception users who had “no conventional risk factors for heart disease,” it said. Among women with diabetes, those who took oral contraceptives had 16 times the risk of heart attack, and those with high cholesterol had 23 times the risk of heart attack if they were taking oral contraceptives.

In addition, the brief said, studies have repeatedly connected oral contraceptives with an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver tumors that can bleed or rupture.

The World Health Organization has classified combined estrogen-progesterone oral contraceptives as Group 1 carcinogens, in the same category of cancer-causing agents as asbestos and tobacco smoking.

Numerous studies have also shown that oral contraceptive users have a higher risk of stroke and blood clots and are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV and HIV, the document said.

The brief explained that some of the drugs in the mandate “are capable of terminating the life of a human being at the embryonic stage of development.”

The “science of human embryology,” taught in medical schools, acknowledges that fertilization marks the beginning of a new human life, a “distinct individual human organism,” it said.

Many religious employers “ascribe intrinsic moral value to every human being from conception (fertilization) to natural death” and therefore oppose drugs designed to cause the death of a human being at the embryonic stage of life, it said.

It is this scientifically supported conviction that leads many employers to object to the mandate’s required coverage of the drugs, “Plan B” and “Ella,” it explained.

While these drugs are deemed “emergency contraceptives,” they function in part by preventing a human embryo from implanting in the womb, leading to death. In the case of Ella, a human embryo can also be killed after implanting in the uterus.

This scientific data lends additional weight to the moral concerns of religious employers throughout the country who object to the contraception mandate, the brief said.

Because it effectively ignored scientific data and “the many serious health risks for women posed by hormonal contraceptives,” the government “has made no attempt to balance the risks and the benefits” of its mandate, the document charged.

“Without such a balancing, it has not shown that the Mandate, by purportedly increasing access to contraception, furthers the Government’s interest in promoting women’s health,” it said.

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