“Reproductive Health” ala United Methodist Women’s Magazine

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I was attending my Martha Circle at the First United Methodist Church in New Braunfels, Texas in Feb. My Circle leader invited us to take a copy of Response Magazine to review. I took the Feb. issue because it was dedicated to Women’s health issues. One of our members had given a short report from this magazine on United Methodist deaconesses who minister to the homebound sick, dying and forgotten. What a wonderful ministry I thought, and wanted to read more about it.

In perusing the magazine I was also impressed to find articles on Responding to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 12 Steps to Sobriety and Life, and a very moving Bible Study on Job, where Stephanie Biggs Scribner tells of her struggle with MS.

The manner in which one particular topic was addressed in the magazine was a great disappointment to me. Because I have a nearly thirty years interest and involvement in the pro-life area an article on Reproductive Health caught my eye. Knowing that the Women’s Division is a member & supporter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an organization supporting a woman’s right to abortion, I decided to read this article. The article criticizes the Bush Administration for “undermining women’s reproductive care and rights, reversing policies that affect the health of women and families internationally.” Immediately upon gaining power, the previous administration set in motion initiatives in the United Nations to ensure the extension of abortion rights throughout the world. This was a pledge Bill Clinton had made during his campaign and immediately began implementing after his election. When this initiative was implemented I remember how much it grieved those of us who believe that life is sacred.

On the other hand, pro-live supporters were elated when Bush vowed to reverse these earlier initiatives so our country would not be responsible for the killing of babies in other lands. There were questions I had as I continued to read this article, for it stated that the Bush Administration had blocked funds to provide reproductive health services, including condoms, to prevent the spread of the HIV virus. This article also declared that President George W. Bush “imposed a global gag rule to cut off U.S. funding to international family planning organizations if they counsel or provide abortion services or advocate for decriminalization of abortion.”

In order to clarify some of my questions concerning these statements I called a friend of mine in D.C., Dr. Janice Crouse, a Ph.D., Senior Fellow with the Beverly LaHaye Institute and recent appointee of President Bush to the United Nations delegation on the Status of Women. Janice was gracious to visit with me, by phone, despite the fact that she was busy preparing for a 2 week meeting with the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

She said it is true the Bush Administration had reversed funding to organizations that provide abortions, because the administration is pro-life. She clarified that funds have not been withdrawn for integrated services having to do with women’s health and that guidelines are now being written for how the money will be directed. The amount of money will not change, but how the funds are distributed will, providing comprehensive health services to women, excluding abortions. I, for one, praise God that my tax money will no longer be used to provide abortions. The article is misleading because it states that our government is cutting off funds that “will severely impact the well-being of women around the world,” when, in actuality, all that will be effected is the providing for abortions, which do not help, but hurt women and children.

Another attack in this article showing political bias concerned Dr. David Hager, an appointee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration overseeing reproductive health medicines. Response reported Dr. Hager “has refused to provide contraceptives to unmarried women, opposes emergency contraception, called recommendations to use condoms for disease prevention ‘almost malpractice’, and recommends prayer for menstrual cramps.”

Dr. Hager is a member of our daughter’s United Methodist Church in Lexington, KY. He has delivered 3 of our son-in-law’s sister’s 4 children and they know Dr. Hager well. In fact, our daughter Bonnie sang at his son’s wedding and sings with him in their church choir. When we were in Lexington shortly after Sanctity of Life Sunday last Jan. Bonnie & Luis told of a very uplifting and informative panel that was held at their church on Sanctity of Life Sunday. Dr. Hager, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist was a member of this panel.

Dr. Crouse, sent me an article she has written on Dr. Hager, enumerating the qualifications and accomplishments that prompted his appointment. She wrote this article because some had accused him of not being qualified for the position for which he was nominated. Defending his qualifications, she wrote, “He is a well-respected Christian, physician and author and was attacked by detractors for being both Christian and pro-life. His resume includes more than three dozen refereed journal articles and more than a dozen chapters in medical books. In addition, he serves part time on the faculty of two well-respected medical schools–Emory University School of Medicine and the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. He has written six books and numerous articles for the popular market as well.” Maligning those who are pro-life is wide spread in Washington today and is affecting not only Dr. Hager, but anyone suggesting it might not be a good idea that we are killing our babies. That is why most of the president’s judicial nominations are being stalled. Liberals are thwarting the nomination any anyone they suspect of being pro-life, even though several of these nominees have testified that if nominated, they will uphold the law.

Since I knew that I would be in Lexington shortly after reading this article, I arranged to interview Dr. Hager and question him about the Response article. In our conversation he informed me that he had not been interviewed for the Time Magazine article quoted in Response. He refuted the statement that he refuses to provide contraceptives to unmarried women. He counsels women and teens that abstinence is the safest way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but if an unmarried woman or teen is determined to remain sexually active he will provide contraceptives.

He also submitted that he never made the statement, “recommending condoms for disease prevention is almost malpractice.” He believes that condoms are effective risk reduction (not 100% prevention) for HIV, gonorrhea, some chlamydia (in men) and herpes in women, but not for HPV (Human Papillomavirus –genital warts which often lead to cancer).

In response to the allegation that he recommends prayer for menstrual cramps, he declared, “That is an erroneous statement.” In actuality, what he has said is, “There are stress related issues women deal with that prayer, along with medication can help.”

The Response article stated that Dr. Hager “filed a citizen’s petition last summer seeking to discredit mifepristone, the early abortion drug.” Dr. Hager told me that he didn’t file the petition, but that it was filed jointly by the Christian Medical Association (which he represented), Concerned Women for America, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. These organizations believe there is evidence that supports their conclusion this drug cause maternal deaths, hemorrhaging, and possible birth defects when it fails. He also informed me there is 8% failure if the drug is given before 7 weeks of pregnancy and 15% failure after 7 weeks.

After the attack on Dr. Hager the article lists the Religions Coalition for Reproductive

Choice’s 8 challenges to reproductive health care. Their main concerns are:

1. The explosion of funding for abstinence only education

2. Proposed flat funding of the Title X family-planning program

3. Bush appointees who might oppose abortion rights

4. An act that the U.S. House passed to exempt hospitals & insurers receiving federal dollars from providing abortions.

5. Federal investigations of federally funded groups for using “sexually explicit” materials.

6. Providing health insurance for fetuses, setting the stage for legal personhood for fetuses.

7. Proposing up to $300 million for experiments to coerce women who receive welfare into marriage as a cure for poverty.

In regards to the first item, I believe we need to understand what is meant by “abstinence education.

The term “abstinence education” as defined by 42 USCA Article 710 of Title V, Abstinence Education Guidelines, means an educational or motivation program which:

1. has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;

2. teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;

3. teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;

4. teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;

5. teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects’

6. teaches that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;

7. teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; and

8. teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activiity.

Why is the RCRC against funding for abstinence, since that is what the Bible teaches? I cannot imagine why anyone would be against abstinence education when it will keep our teens pure until marriage and prevent them from having unwanted pregnancies and STD’s. Dr. Hager said that the Medical Institute has provided statistics that indicate that, for the first time, there is reason to believe abstinence education is successful. Teen pregnancies have dropped from 1.2 million per year to 900,000, and abortions have been reduced to 1.4 million from 1.7 million. While these statistics are still alarming, improvement has been made through abstinence education, which the RCRC believes is “a challenge to reproductive health.”

In item 6, the RCRC is concerned that fetuses might gain personhood status. If fetuses aren’t human, what are they? Operations have long been performed on pre-born babies, saving their lives, but, the RCRC is opposed to funding such procedures.

Some of the other concerns they have are also disturbing, but I will not go into these. I believe many will be glad that the House passed an act to exempt hospitals and insurers receiving federal dollars from providing abortions and that it might be a good idea to have investigations of federally funded groups for using sexually explicit materials.

The RCRC’s main reason for existence is to assure that abortion remains legal, including late-term and partial birth abortion. Our Women’s Division is a founding member and committed supporter of the RCRC agenda. While the Women’s Division has been cautious about giving funds directly to the RCRC, they have provided in-kind services, staff time and advocacy for RCRC programs on a consistent basis.

The Response magazine article on Reproductive Health did not represent my point of view at all. I believe there are thousands of United Methodist women who would feel similarly. There have been other issues where the perspective of the Women’s Division was vastly different from that of many women in the pew.

While we can appreciate and support many projects the Women’s Division recommends, there are others about which we need to ask questions, study further and, in my opinion, refrain from supporting when the position the Division takes is in conflict with our own consciences.

I believe that God is deeply grieved that the law of our land supports the killing, in a mother’s womb, of those who He has created in His image and knit together in their mother’s womb. And, I believe that He is also deeply grieved that a group who calls themselves Christian supports an organization that supports the killing of our unborn children.

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