- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

Forget addressing real health issues and diseases. Apparently, there’s a new at-risk group: women who don’t use contraception. A December 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control surveyed contraceptive use among American women. While the study found contraceptive use to be almost universal in the United States, that wasn’t enough. You see, the study revealed that 7.4 percent of all sexually active women are at risk for “unintended pregnancies.” The report paints a pretty clear picture: Americanwomen know what contraception is, they have access to it, and more than 98 percent of those 15-44 years of age have used it. Yet, the researchers suggest that if women weren’t using contraception, they were engaging in dangerous behavior. Women at risk were defined as “women who have had sex in the last three months but are not current contraceptors.” Married women could easily fall into this category.

Let’s get a few things clear. Pregnancy is not a disease.Infact,some women want to be pregnant. A growing industry in artificialreproductive technologies suggests that some people want very much to have a child and are also willing to pay a lot of money for a pregnancy that will bring a child into the world.

Women who are married have on occasion been knowntorepresenta unique group of women in our ever-expanding list of sexual personae. Some marry and actually want to have children. Interestingly, as contraceptive use has decreased, so have abortions. So much for the theory of being at risk for unintended pregnancies.

After years of claiming that privacy extends to the bedroom, and, hence, all sexual activity should be not only tolerated but even condoned, it turns out that only the bedrooms of the sexualrevolutionaries should be private. The study suggests that women who engage in sexual activity which also happens to be procreative are somehow engaging in potentially dangerous behavior. No matter that most contraceptive devices do not protect against a majority of STDs, including human papilloma virus which is associated with upwards of 90 percent of all cases of cervical cancer, a disease that claims the lives of more American women than HIV/AIDS.

Some of the women who forgo contraception simply may be women who have read studies like the 2000 National Institutes of Health Workshop Summary report on the overall effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs, which didn’t provide much data to endorse condom use.

Or perhaps they are women who have visited the Web sites of the condom manufacturers which make no definitive promises that condoms will protect against HIV/AIDS. They might also be women aware of the reports to the CDC concerning the deaths of 17 women who were using the birth-control patch. They could be women who themselves used the contraceptive shot Depo-Provera and experienced subsequent loss in bone density.Inessence,some women who choose not to use contraceptives could be women who are sincerely concerned for their own health and well-being. They might even be women who want to become mothers.

Still, the recent CDC study doesn’t appear to consider these choices valid.Thestudy clearly sets forth that many of the women who were not using contraceptives were currently pregnant, trying to conceive, or infertile. Some had even not engaged in intercourse recently (or ever). But the language throughout the reportrepeatedly claimsthatthese women “may” be at risk for an unintended pregnancy. In short, the document is full of “may, could, should” language — hardly the stuff upon which scientific knowledge is based.

When almost 19 out of 20 women are using contraception and the fertility industry is booming, it’s hard to understand why the CDC targets a few women who make other choices unless their bedrooms have been exempted from the privacy privilege.

And if the CDC is really interested in preventing unintended pregnancies, it could always promote abstinence or natural family planning. After all, no one’s ever become unintentionally pregnant without having sex.

Pia de Solenni is director of life and women’s issues at the Family Research Council.

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