- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Women and contraceptives

Pia de Solenni’s Monday Op-Ed column, “Dubious CDC research,” misrepresents the findings of a recent government survey on women who don’t use contraception and their risk of unintended pregnancy.

The CDC reports that 7.4 percent of American women are “at risk” for unintended pregnancies because they are not using contraceptives even though they are sexually active and are neither pregnant nor saying that they are trying to become pregnant. Contrary to Ms. de Solenni’s assertion, this 7.4 percent figure refers only to those women who are sexually active and do not wish to become pregnant. The fact that since 1995, an additional 1.43 million women say they are forgoing contraception when they have sex is of particular concern, given that previous research has shown that nearly half of all unintended pregnancies occur among the small percentage of women who are not using contraception.

As Ms. de Solenni points out, both married and unmarried women may fall into this category. In fact, large numbers of married couples experience an unintended pregnancy resulting in either an abortion or a child they are unprepared to raise.

Although nobody knows for sure at this point why 4.6 million sexually active women who don’t wish to become pregnant are not using contraception, one possibility is the proliferation of misinformation that inaccurately depicts contraceptives in a negative light. Abstinence-only sex education classes that discuss contraceptives only in the context of their failure rates, the replacement of medically accurate information on government Web sites with misinformation, and misrepresentations of scientific evidence like those in Ms. de Solenni’s article can only exacerbate the problem.

SHARON L. CAMP

President and CEO

Alan Guttmacher Institute

Washington

Ms. De Solenni’s argument in “Dubious CDC research” is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the recent data on contraceptive use.

The CDC report showed that the percentage of women who are at risk for an unintended pregnancy and not using contraception increased 43 percent between 1995 and 2002. Contrary to Ms. De Solenni’s claim, women who are having sex and trying to become pregnant, are pregnant or recently had a baby, who are sterile or who are not having sex are not included in that statistic.

This increase is troubling because almost half the unintended pregnancies in the United States occur to women who are sexually active and not using contraception. As public health experts and advocates, we care about unintended pregnancy because women who have an unintended pregnancy are more likely to seek an abortion, to wait to seek prenatal care until after the first trimester or not to obtain any care. Lack of prenatal care may result in lower-birth-weight babies or in pregnant mothers not getting treated for alcohol or drug dependence, for example.

Pregnancy isn’t a disease, but it is a medical condition with real costs to women, their children, their families and communities. Rather than engage in name-calling or pointing fingers about who should or shouldn’t be having sex, the CDC data remind us that we should be working together to help those women who want to avoid an unintended pregnancy by providing better information and access to regular and backup methods of contraception. After all, don’t we all agree that it is better for women and couples to be able to decide if or, more likely, when they want to have children?

KIRSTEN MOORE

President and CEO

Reproductive Health Technologies

Project

Washington

God, faith and the president

You reported that President Bush stated he did not know how anyone could be president without a personal relationship with “the Lord” (“President outlines role of faith,” Page 1, yesterday). That would have been strange news to Thomas Jefferson and most of the other Founding Fathers, whose religious perspectives did not embrace a belief in that anthropomorphic God whom Mr. Bush describes as “Lord.”

Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence and much of the Bill of Rights, rejected the divinity of Jesus but considered Jesus to be among the greatest philosophers in human history. He distilled from the New Testament those stories and sayings of Jesus that did not depend on miracles and compiled the Jefferson Bible.

Mr. Bush should have a look at the Jefferson Bible and educate himself on the religious perspectives of our Founding Fathers. None of them ever claimed to have a personal relationship with the Lord.

JAMES JOHNSON

Plattsburgh, N.Y.

‘Saudi generosity’

At a time when the global community has come together to support the millions affected by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, it is unfortunate that some feel compelled to undermine the generosity and kindness of a people and their religion (“Thanking Allah for Christians and Jews,” Pruden on Politics, Friday).

This is not a competition to be the first to pledge the most. We all have committed to contribute what we can so this region and these people can rebuild their lives — not just this moment. Saudi planes were among the first to arrive with relief assistance, and all countries recognize that the magnitude of this grave human tragedy requires planning and coordination to best allocate our resources over the long term. The Saudi people know this because they are familiar with being charitable. It is, after all, a requirement of our Islamic faith. Perhaps if the facts about Saudi generosity were considered, a fair assessment could be made.

The government of Saudi Arabia has thus far pledged $30 million in cash for the victims of this tragedy, and we continue to coordinate with U.N. agencies to discern where and what type of assistance will be needed.

Through a telethon, our citizens have raised in excess of $80 million. When considering Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product, this is equivalent to a U.S. cash contribution of more than $5 billion. And this does not even take into account in-kind contributions made by individual citizens and Saudi businesses.

In addition to its initial $10 million donation, the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank is pledging $500 million in loans and trade financing to help nations affected by this catastrophe. In relative and absolute terms, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors to the victims of the tsunami. Of course, our charity will not end there and does not end there.

Like all countries, Saudi Arabia is called upon by the United Nations to earmark 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product for overseas assistance. Each year, we have surpassed this target, and since the mid-1970s, our assistance to developing nations through bilateral and multilateral channels has amounted to nearly $80 billion.

Total foreign assistance represents, on average, about 4 percent of the kingdom’s annual gross domestic product, rendering Saudi Arabia one of the most generous nations in the world. This generosity has been proved time and again, and to date, we have fulfilled every foreign-assistance commitment made.

To call Saudi Arabia, its people or Muslims in general anything but charitable and compassionate is to reject the facts and malign the kind acts of millions of people around the world.

The global community is facing extraordinary problems that necessitate sophisticated solutions. This requires good will. This demands patience, understanding and benevolence — all tenets of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths. Together, we grieve the loss of each soul taken in this catastrophe, and we hope God Almighty will grant the survivors strength as the world helps them rebuild their lives.

NAIL AL-JUBEIR

Director, Information Office

Embassy of Saudi Arabia

Washington

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