Doomed to Fail: The “Back Up Your Birth Control” Campaign

E-card being used to promote the Back Up Your Birth Control CampaignOn Wednesday, March 30, the National Institute of Reproductive Health’s Back Up Your Birth Control Campaign is sponsoring a Day of Action aimed at high school and college students. By spreading the word about so-called emergency contraception (EC), apparently the campaign’s purpose is to try to prevent unintended pregnancies. But I have to wonder if the folks at NIRH somehow missed the memo that EC has proven to be not all it’s cracked up to be.

“More Effective Than Nothing”: The Best That Can Be Said of EC?

Three years ago, Dr. James Trussell conducted a web seminar (accessible here) in which he made some very candid admissions about the failure of EC to reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy. If you check out Trussell’s bio page on Princeton University’s website, you’ll see that he is “a senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, a member of the National Medical Committee of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and a member of the board of directors of the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation and the Society of Family Planning.” It also says that he “has actively promoted making emergency contraception more widely available as an important step in helping women reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy…” In other words: Trussell has been an EC cheerleader for years, and no one can question his “pro-choice” credentials. And yet during that 2008 seminar, the Life Training Institute’s Rich Poupard summarized the major points Trussell acknowledged:

  1. Trussell previously hoped (published in 1992) that EC would reduce unintended pregnancies and abortion by half.
  2. 15 years later 11 studies have consistently showed no decrease of pregnancy rates from use of ECs.
  3. Trussell also stated that a future decrease in pregnancy rates from EC use is highly unlikely – an astounding admission.
  4. He then quoted TH Huxley when he stated “The great tragedy of science – the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
  5. Due to difficulties in estimating the expected pregnancy rates, the published efficacy in the package insert of EC is almost certainly too high.
  6. The only thing he could say about the actual efficacy of Plan B was that it was “more effective than nothing”.

Where’s the Outrage?

Poupard observed:

This is amazing stuff. Since there was extensive news coverage of the effort to get Plan B to OTC status, why the silence in the wake of information that Plan B will not effect pregnancy or abortion rates? Imagine the outcry if a heart medication was thought to reduce heart attacks by 95% – and was made over-the-counter in order to increase its availability to reduce heart disease. A year later evidence comes out that no study had ever found that it had any effect on heart attack rates, and that the only thing that could be said about it is that it is “probably better than nothing”. There would be a great outcry, congressional hearings, and accusations that the evil pharmaceutical companies were gouging unsuspecting patients. However, so far there has not been a peep among those concerned about “women’s health” that they could be promoting an expensive medication that may not be effective.

Remember: this was three years ago. And still, we haven’t heard a peep from those who claim to be all about “women’s health.” E-card being used to promote the Back Up Your Birth Control CampaignInstead, what they give us are e-cards promoting EC like the one shown at the top of the page, and the one shown at right, which calls to mind writer Mark Shea’s observation: “Show me a culture that despises virginity and I’ll show you a culture that despises children.” (As an aside: isn’t the image on this card a bit odd? It seems to me a rather happy looking mother and child don’t exactly fit with the message that “Babies are too damn hard.”)

Planned Parenthood’s Stats: EC Not Lowering Their Abortion Numbers

In judging EC’s effectiveness, it’s also interesting to take a look at Planned Parenthood’s own statistics over the past few years. Here are the numbers of EC kits they’ve provided in the past eight years for which figures are available:

  • 2002: 633,756
  • 2003: 774,482
  • 2004: 983,537
  • 2005: 1,245,506
  • 2006: 1,436,846
  • 2007: 1,423,365
  • 2008: 1,436,808
  • 2009: 1,537,180

In other words, from 2002 to 2009, the number of EC kits provided annually by the “LensCrafters of family planning” increased by 143%. Now, if all of those millions of megadoses of the regular birth control pill were so effective, we could reasonably expect to see Planned Parenthood’s abortion figures go down — indeed, down significantly — right? And yet, we don’t. Here are Planned Parenthood’s abortion numbers for those same years:

  • 2002: 230,630
  • 2003: 244,628
  • 2004: 255,015
  • 2005: 264,943
  • 2006: 289,750
  • 2007: 305,310
  • 2008: 324,008
  • 2009: 332,278

During this same time period, Planned Parenthood’s annual number of abortions increased every single year, and by 44% over the course of eight years. I think these figures give us a pretty good idea of why the most ringing endorsement that can now be given of EC by its biggest advocates is that it’s merely “more effective than nothing.” [HT: Pro-Life Wisconsin]

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