By Janet Morana
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling that was a direct precursor to Roe v. Wade will have its 40th anniversary tomorrow. Eisenstadt v. Baird, which was decided March 22, 1972, made contraception legal for unmarried people.
That decision was cited in the Roe v. Wade ruling the following year and in several abortion-related cases decided by the high court since then.
It’s an interesting coincidence that Eisenstadt v. Baird’s anniversary is happening at the same time as the nationwide upheaval over an Obama administration mandate that would force all employers to provide their workers with free contraception, as well as sterilization services and abortifacient drugs. On Friday, a Rally for Religious Freedom will take place in hundreds of cities across the U.S. to give people of faith – and anyone who treasures the First Amendment – an opportunity to respond to the unjust Health and Human Services mandate.
Eisenstadt v. Baird made its way to the Supreme Court after abortion advocate Bill Baird was arrested in 1967 at a Boston University lecture for giving a unmarried young woman a condom and a package of spermicidal foam. Five years later, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual’s right to privacy was paramount to any other consideration. Ten months after that, the same right to privacy would be expanded to women seeking abortion.
Pro-life advocates have long understood that contraception and abortion go hand in hand. Dr. Theresa Burke, co-founder of the post-abortion healing ministry Rachel’s Vineyard, discovered the link more than 25 years ago in her work.
“I never expected the subject of contraception linked to deep and hidden emotional pain to repeatedly surface during our weekends for healing after abortion. Many abortions are associated with a failure in contraception. Any woman who leaves an abortion clinic is released with an arsenal of birth-control pills. The behavior that led to the pregnancy is never addressed, but she is armed with the resources to prevent another pregnancy … or so she thinks,” Dr. Burke said.
“Besides these obvious reasons for grief, I was rather astounded that a growing number of women, including non-Catholics, were coming forward to say that they were also experiencing profound feelings of grief and loss because of contraceptive use which resulted in spontaneous abortions.”
The Catholic Church forbids the use of artificial contraception, and it is this teaching that fuels much of the opposition to the HHS mandate. But the mandate impacts every employer in the United States, and it is this assault on freedom of conscience that is the basis of Priests for Life’s lawsuit against the mandate. Priests for Life v. Sebelius was filed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Feb. 15; it was the fourth of nine suits that have thus far challenged the mandate.
My colleague Dr. Alveda King calls the mandate a clear violation of the First Amendment. “But beyond that,” she says, “the mandate endangers women by giving them poison and calling it health care. Birth-control pills are bad for women; abortifacients are bad for women. We need to tell the truth, and to make sure that our voices are heard.”
Oral contraceptives are indisputably linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cervical and liver cancer, blood clots, elevated blood pressure, decreased desire and sexual dysfunction, and stroke. And although the pro-choice side continues to resist recognizing the link between breast cancer and birth control, we in the pro-life movement have seen more than enough scientific evidence to convince us that such a link exists.
Conscience questions aside, on this inauspicious anniversary of Eisenstadt v. Baird and its confluence with a nationwide debate on birth control, now is the right time to ask if easy access to contraception has really been a boon for society. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 20 million Americans are currently infected with the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical and other cancers. Six million new infections are reported every year. More than 16 million Americans have genital herpes, a virus that makes people more susceptible to HIV infection And there’s AIDS, which is spread by sexual contact, among other ways, and has claimed the lives of 500,000 Americans since 1981. As of last year, according to the CDC, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. were living with AIDS, with new infections increasing each year, particularly among those under 30.
Is a contraception prescription with every paycheck such a good idea?
Clearly, the answer is no.
Janet Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and co-host of EWTN’s “The Catholic View for Women.” She will be one of the speakers at the Manhattan Rally for Religious Freedom on Friday.