Author archives: Moira Gaul

Plan B: A Failure to Meet Falsely Inflated Predictions

by Moira Gaul

October 16, 2009

A recent article published in the journal Contraception, discusses the failed “effectiveness” of the drug Plan B (a form of emergency contraception or “EC”) on a population level. The author of the articles concedes:

Our expectations for EC’s effectiveness were biased upwards by an early estimate that expanding access to emergency contraception could dramatically reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and subsequent abortion. This estimate made a compelling story and is likely a key reason why donors and other were willing to support efforts to expand access to EC.

The falsely inflated predictions noted above were —- in order to dramatically decrease the incidence of unintended pregnancy and subsequent abortion —- touted as valid estimates during the lead up to and the drug’s change to over the counter status to women 18 years and older in 2006. The admission of failures at a population level following expanded access is poignant. Additionally, it is clear that Planned Parenthood has been a primary profiteer through the increased marketing and sales process.

The article goes on to deflect from valid flags raised by the continued self-administration of Plan B and ignores salient women’s health issues surrounding drug usage including: the lack of medical oversight by a licensed clinician during usage to screen for contraindications; the lack of medical studies to determine safety for repeated and long-term usage; and, the failure to inform women of the potential abortifacient action of the drug —- a violation of informed consent.

Additionally, the non-medical provider oversight during drug usage ignores a 2008 study release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that young women most at-risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections and disease are not being referred for testing and treatment. The self-administration of Plan B knocks out a critical link in the care and referral chain for many women at-risk for disease. Such a link is vital for both secondary prevention or screening efforts and thus, the protection of women’s reproductive health.

Expanded access of Plan B to both women and adolescent girls are not in the best interest of either adolescent or women’s health promotion and disease prevention.

A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life: Pregnancy Resource Center Service Report 2009

by Moira Gaul

October 2, 2009

Wednesday, September 30th, FRC was very pleased to announce the release of a groundbreaking report, A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life: Pregnancy Resource Center Service Report 2009 which coincides with the 40-year anniversary of the pregnancy resource center movement (PRC) in the United States. A collaborative project with the three major pregnancy resource center networks Care Net, Heartbeat International, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, and LIFE International the report tells the story of a movement contributing in significant ways daily to the enhancement of maternal and child health nationwide, as well as around the world.

Go to www.apassiontoserve.com to learn more about the PRC movement and the report, view news stories, to order/download a copy of the report, and/or to view the press conference web cast. My remarks from the release Wednesday afternoon at the National Press Club are below:

Comments, September 30, 2009

Good afternoon, it is good to see you all. I am Moira Gaul, fellow of womens and reproductive health at the Family Research Council here in Washington.

The 2,300 pregnancy resource centers represented in A Passion to Serve are affiliated with the three major national networks: Care Net, Heartbeat International and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. This group of PRCs assist over 5,000 Americans daily with sexuality- and pregnancy-related concerns. Small staffs and the tremendous numbers of trained volunteers and professionals offer a whole person approach whereby - emotional, medical, spiritual, and practical needs are met through tangible help, support for safe and healthy pregnancies, and resources.

The vast array of education, medical, and outreach services PRCs provide, and that we will hear more about today, combine powerfully to enhance womens and maternal health, as well as reproductive and childrens health. Given the thousands of women served daily - this translates into a substantial public health benefit to our Nation.

The compassionate care offered unconditionally through a faith-based setting at PRCs, offers hope and well-being. I witnessed this love in action first-hand while working at the Charlottesville Pregnancy Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, from 2000 to 2002. As client services director, I oversaw outreach to clients including counseling on pregnancy options, education materials, community referrals, and the coordination of medical services offered at the center. Some 2,500 client visits later, no client was turned away by a volunteer each one was welcomed, valued, and cared for. This was faith-based social service shining at its brightest!

More recently while earning a masters in public health, within the maternal and child health track at George Washington University, it became increasingly apparent that the tremendous work and impact of the PRC movement were unrecognized and understudied. For an organized movement of its size and scope, this left a void to be filled. A Passion to Serve aims to recapitulate the extraordinary contributions from what has been characterized as … a quiet campaign …

Let me briefly mention two aspects of this quiet and humble campaign: First, as thousands of client exit surveys confirm, the trust that women place in those who assist them at PRCs is high and a sign of broad acceptance by both women and communities. Because of this trust, PRCs have multiplied in number across the country and they have become an essential link in community networks of care. This report takes a closer look at specific work with underserved and special populations in various geographic locations, from metro-Portland to Coastal Georgia to rural Arizona and beyond. Case studies highlight center outreach to women in prison, youth in communities of crisis, at-risk populations, as well as centers serving Native Americans. Accompanying the case studies are statements of praise from county health departments, social service agencies and other organizations that validate PRC work and echo their respected role as community partners.

Second, following delivery of the baby, PRCs fulfill another vital function. Parenting education has become a core service provided by pregnancy centers, equipping new mothers, and fathers, to be stronger parents and preparing nurturing environments for child raising. Nationally, nearly 70 percent of pregnancy centers offer this specialized education either through direct services on premises or in nearby churches, schools, and other locations. Curriculum topics span child development, safety and injury prevention, and positive discipline strategies.

Classes typically cover life skills to strengthen parental development and resilience. The meetings often provide opportunities for women to connect and grow with other new moms, helping to build a social support network which contributes to positive maternal mental health outcomes.

Were grateful to have such a distinguished and generous panel of physicians, network presidents and past clients — women who will attest to the active and flourishing role of pregnancy resource centers in caring for the whole woman and her unmet needs. Today we are taking a major step toward the awareness that PRCs so richly deserve.

Abstinence Education Is the Key

by Moira Gaul

July 14, 2009

After 30 years of implementation and evaluation, there is no compelling evidence of contraceptive distribution and instruction programs having had a sustained and meaningful effect on “protective” behaviors-that is, “consistent and correct condom use” in classroom-type settings. As a public health intervention method, contraceptive programs have simply failed American youth: An STD epidemic currently exists amongst young people. One in four teenage girls nationwide has an STD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the U.S. continues to have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world; and the toll from the negative psychological sequelae associated with adolescent sex is having an impact on mental health and the pursuit of life-goals.

Decreasing teen sexual activity is key to decreasing poverty, since single parenting is strongly linked to poverty. Research shows that the younger a teen starts having sex, the greater risk of pregnancy. A 2002 study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that slmost half of all girls who have sex before age 15 get pregnant, The distribution of contraceptives does nothing to promote healthy relationships, healthy family formation, and marriage, where a greater probability for economic stability exists.

As well as increased risk of non-marital pregnancy, substance abuse and poor academic achievement are associated with teen sexual activity and can affect school drop-out rates. According to data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, those who were sexually active were three times more likely to be depressed than those who were abstinent. By contrast, teens who abstain from sex enhance their abilities to achieve short-term and long-term life goals.

Young people deserve a whole-person approach, including physical, emotional, and psychological dimensions. The primary prevention strategy, or risk-avoidance abstinence approach, provides for a health paradigm in which youth are better able to develop during adolescent years and from which society will benefit.

Moira Gaul is the Director of Women’s and Reproductive Health at the Family Research Council.

This article originally appeared in Business Week on July 6, 2009.

Research on “Sexting” from the Medical Institute

by Moira Gaul

May 30, 2009

The May 2009 newsletter from the Medical Institute contains valuable information for parents about “Sexting” - meaning the posting or sending of sexually suggestive electronic images and messages:

A recent survey of a nationally representative sample of 653 teens, aged 13 to 19, and 627 young adults, aged 20 to 26, compiles information on ‘sexting.’ The survey reported that one in five teens and one in three young adults have sent or posted semi-nude or nude images of themselves in cyberspace. Half of the teens and young adults have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages. This trend is surprising since nearly 3/4 of teens and young adults acknowledged that sending such images and messages “can have serious negative consequences.” The most commonly listed negative consequences were regret (79%), potential embarrassment (73%), bad reputation (69%), and disappointing family (57%).

This edition of the Medical Institute’s newsletter also discusses new research underscoring previous research findings that sexual activity in adolescents is influenced by what they watch on TV. Read the whole thing.

Maternal and Fetal Health Interim Guidance Concerning N1H1 or Swine Flu from the CDC

by Moira Gaul

April 30, 2009

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide guidance and information on background, risks, suggested treatments, and other considerations for pregnant women and N1H1, or Swine Flu. The CDC currently reports, “Pregnant women are also known to be higher risk for seasonal influenza complications and during prior pandemics, and it is reasonable to assume that pregnant women are also at higher risk for swine influenza complications.

Excerpts:

Evidence that influenza can be more severe in pregnant women comes from observations during previous pandemics and from studies among pregnant women who had seasonal influenza. An excess of influenza-associated deaths among pregnant women were [sic] reported during the pandemics of 1918-1919 and 1957-1958. Adverse pregnancy outcomes have been reported following previous influenza pandemics, with increased rates of spontaneous abortion and preterm birth reported, especially among women with pneumonia. Case reports and several epidemiologic studies conducted during interpandemic periods also indicate that pregnancy increases the risk for influenza complications for the mother and might increase the risk for adverse perinatal outcomes or delivery complications.

Many pregnant women will go on to have a typical course of uncomplicated influenza. However, for some pregnant women, illness might progress rapidly, and might be complicated by secondary bacterial infections including pneumonia. Fetal distress associated with severe maternal illness can occur. Pregnant women who have suspected swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection should be tested (http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/specimencollection.htm), …. “…..”…fever in pregnant women should be treated.”

The CDC information goes on to include breastfeeding considerations and other ways to reduce the risk of infection of pregnant women..

Glamour Article Strikes a Chord: New Outreach Offers Hope of Healing

by Moira Gaul

February 23, 2009

Last week, Glamour magazine published an unusually candid article on the topic of abortion and women’s mental health: “Abortion: The Serious Health Decision Women Aren’t Talking About Until Now.” Surprisingly, the article conceded that women’s abortion experiences can carry with them the long-lasting burden of psychological harm and mental health morbidity. Illustrating several women’s real-life personal struggles with the aftermath of their abortion decisions, which left them depressed and traumatized, the article undermines the myth that abortion is a non-event in women’s lives. But the article neglects to mention the very real dilemma that there is an utter lack of resources on a public health level available to women and individuals devastated by their abortion experience and in desperate need of help.

The significant gap of resources for women experiencing psychological toil following abortion represents a largely unmet need in women’s mental health care today, particularly given the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45.  Directly following an abortion, women are often unable to make sense of the emotional fallout, the impact of the abortion upon their lives - past, present, or future - even the effects upon their relationships with others.  Not being at a level of readiness psychologically or emotionally to enter a recovery program, but rather at a very elemental level needing to accept that the experience is affecting her, she must adjust to that reality. Women who have successfully emerged from faith-based recovery programs have shared that it took them years, even exceeding a decade, before realizing that healing from their abortion experience was critical and necessary to address adverse mental health outcomes.  During the interim period though, there is a flagrant lack of connections to ample and effective resources to offer hope and aid in the recovery process.

The absence of clinical guidelines — more aptly, a complete non-recognition by the professional mental health field of the psychological sequelae or adverse effects from abortion (as publicly decried by two practicing psychiatrists, Dr. Miriam Grossman and Dr. Martha Shuping — is the root cause of the scarcity of resources. Given the high prevalence of women affected by abortion, how can there be such silence in the professional mental health field?

A fairly new outreach, Abortion Changes You (“ACY”), offers a unique setting for women and individuals seeking help following abortion.  Abortion Changes You is “a safe, anonymous space for women, men, and family members experiencing reproductive grief and loss through abortion.”  It provides a non-judgmental space in which to read and connect with others’ similar abortion experiences as well as to find assistance in identifying feelings and emotions.  The fact that an individual is not alone is enforced as well as the hope of “healing pathways” from which to move forward.  This initiative for women, men and family members allows them to explore their grief and emotions, and to discover the availability of recovery care.  The inclusion of links to multiple recovery programs both nationally and internationally is a salient feature of Abortion Changes You and represents the bridge to care.  While ACY’s primary focus is connecting women and men of faith to healing programs, it also provides awareness and validation of the reproductive grief and loss following abortion to all who encounter the outreach.

With input and expert review by two psychologists practicing in the area of reproductive grief and loss, Abortion Changes You is a necessary and welcome resource.  Women’s health clinics would do well to provide information about Abortion Changes You to help fulfill an unmet need in women’s health care.

Additionally the book Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One’s Abortion Experience, an extension of the Abortion Changes You outreach, provides a very similar format to the web site with a complete listing of recovery program resources.  The Family Research Council endorses Abortion Changes You as a significant women’s health resource for aid in healing from abortion experiences. [Source].

While a vociferously guarded right by advocates, abortion has been a topic which has effectively muted and bound so many who experience it, leaving them alone and trapped in a mire of emotional toil and despair.  The body of scientific research showing an association between past abortion history and subsequent mental health morbidity is extensive and growing. [Source]   Women must be apprised of the psychological harm and mental health morbidity risks of abortion prior to making a decision as a function of clear and accurate informed consent.

In addition, a crescendo of women’s voices that were once bound by the abortion tragedy (http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/resources/ and http://www.operationoutcry.org/) is at last being heard.  These women are determined to break the silence and free kindred souls through a new dialogue.  But far more needs to be done.  

In the meantime, vital outreach through Abortion Changes You, linking women and men to committed and strong recovery programs in the country, is fulfilling a need to effectively minister and provide help and hope to hurting souls.  In doing so, the well-being of women and families will only grow.

Virginity Pledge Study “Misses the Boat” on Abstinence Education

by Moira Gaul

December 30, 2008

The Rosenbaum study comparing the sexual behavior of “virginity pledgers and nonpledgers” is a distraction from increasingly effective risk avoidance, or abstinence-centered, health prevention programs. Such programs are not the same as virginity pledge programs, and have stronger foundations in behavioral change than such pledges. The implication that this study should discredit federally funded abstinence programs for youth misses the boat from a behavioral science standpoint.

There are important ways in which abstinence programs are different from “virginity pledge” presentations. In order to accomplish behavior change or have a person successfully practice a specific behavior, precursors affecting that behavior have to be influenced. These include things such as knowledge as well as attitudes and intentions towards the behavior. The theoretical construct viewed as having the strongest effect on practicing a behavior is “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy is the belief of a person that he or she can actually practice the behavior - the belief that they can actually do it successfully. Abstinence education programs teach skills in communication and refusal and impart additional information to youth for example about healthy relationships, goal setting, disease prevention, and social responsibility. All these elements serve to better equip youth, thus increasing self-efficacy. Collectively they provide a holistic health message helping youth to navigate the practice of sexual abstinence until marriage. Additionally, the longer the duration of the intervention or program, the more the health message, information, and skills imparted are reinforced. Such important program content cannot be adequately summed up and delivered during a short-term or one-time presentation. And if youth do slip on this behavior, the abstinence programs provide a sound foundation for returning to the practice of abstinence, whereas virginity pledges can leave one feeling as though there is utter failure for a return to the behavior.

Scholars are still building an evidence base for this relatively young field of abstinence education health promotion/disease prevention programs. Studying what is most successful within abstinence curricula to determine the best prevention practices would be a better use of research time and funding. Guiding youth away from high-risk behaviors which act to the detriment of both their physical and emotional health needs to be at the forefront of prevention strategies.

Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform”

by Moira Gaul

December 16, 2008

Check out this new book by former FRC director of tax policy and blogger extraordinaire, Leslie Carbone.  You can find the book here.  Slaying Leviathan:  The Moral Case for Tax Reform, “explores the moral dimension of tax policy and calls for a fundamental tax reform.”

Book Description from Potomac Books, Inc.

In the natural order, virtue and vice each carries its own consequences. On the one hand, virtue yields largely positive results. Hard work, patience, and carefulness, for example, tend to generate prosperity. Vice, on the other hand, brings negative consequences. Sloth, impatience, and recklessness, for example, tend toward suffering.

In Slaying Leviathan, Leslie Carbone argues that since the early twentieth century, U.S. tax policy has been designed to mitigate the natural economic results of both virtue and vice. When the government disrupts the natural order through taxation by creating incentives and disincentives that overturn these natural consequences, the government perverts its own function and becomes part of the problem-a contributor to social breakdown-rather than part of the solution or an instrument of justice.

Slaying Leviathan envisions an approach to tax policy rooted in natural justice. To achieve this goal, Carbone first traces the historical evolution of U.S. tax policy, from the 1765 Stamp Act to the 1997 tax cut. She then assesses the current American tax burden and George W. Bush’s tax cuts and explores the fundamental problems with U.S. tax policy. After providing a historical analysis of federal spending and of expanding governmental expectations, she offers a set of over-arching principles and instructions on how to apply them to tax policy proposals.”


About the Author:
“Leslie Carbone served as the director of Family Tax Policy at the Family Research Council, chief of staff to the late assemblyman Gil Ferguson of California, and a speechwriter for U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Her writing has been published in the Weekly Standard, the American Enterprise, the San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous other magazines and journals. She has lectured on more than 100 college campuses and has been interviewed on more than 250 radio shows. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia.”

 

New Mental Health Studies Dispel Myth That Abortion is a ‘Non-Event’

by Moira Gaul

December 5, 2008

News of note this week is that two new studies published in peer-reviewed journals continue to link abortion and negative mental health effects.

The first paper , published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Survey, the most comprehensive national dataset on the prevalence of psychological disorders, to explore associations between abortion history and mental health. Abortion was found to be associated with an increased risk of a number of mental health problems including: panic attacks, panic disorder, agoraphobia, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depression. The four study authors presented their research on topic at a panel discussion at the Family Research Council in October 2008.

The second paper, written by New Zealand researcher David Fergusson, analyzed data from a 30-year longitudinal study. The methodology, analysis employing two types of models for concurrent and long-term health effects, strong control for confounding variables, and comparison groups were all strengths of the study. The results indicated abortion to be associated with an increased risk of mental disorders, including major depression, anxiety disorder, illicit drug dependence, and suicide ideation.

The results of both studies add to the strong body of evidence detailing the causal association between abortion and mental health disorders. These findings continue to raise important implications concerning informed consent in healthcare. Women in this country deserve quality healthcare which provides accurate information on the associated risks accompanying abortion.

Also making news yesterday was a review paper published by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In their own press release the university/dept. cited the review paper as the most rigorous review of the literature to date which purported that “studies with the most flawed methodology found negative mental health sequelae of abortion.” This is an insult to Johns Hopkins as a credible academic research institution. The exclusion of numerous studies published in peer-reviewed journals was a gaping omission. The ties of senior author Robert Blum to the Alan Guttmacher Institute as a board member and previous board chair as well as the funding of the university’s department of Population, Family, and Reproductive Health, where three of the four study authors work, by Planned Parenthood of Maryland, serve as evidence of the political motivation behind the publishing of the study. Johns Hopkins should be admonished for stamping such sham science.

Women are increasingly coming forward to share about the negative impacts of abortion in their lives. Clinicians treating women for mental health disorders are increasingly stepping forward to tell the truth about the large numbers seeking treatment due to the fallout from abortion. The repeated lies from the pro-abortion community that abortion is a non-event or somehow “therapeutic” in women’s lives are being dispelled and the truth clearly elucidated by scientific findings.

Study Links Exposure to Sexual Content on T.V. and Teen Pregnancy

by Moira Gaul

November 7, 2008

A recently released study published in Pediatrics and sponsored by the Rand corporation has linked watching sex on television and teen pregnancy. Data from a national longitudinal study on adolescents from 12 to 17 years of age were used from over a three year period to measure experience of a teen pregnancy. Adolescents were surveyed to assess whether exposure to sexual content on television predicted subsequent pregnancy for girls or responsibility for pregnancy for boys.

Results showed that teens who were exposed to high levels of sexual content on television, were twice as likely to experience a pregnancy (either directly for girls or to be responsible for a pregnancy for boys) in the subsequent three years, compared with teens watching less sexual content on television.

Points to make regarding and related to the study findings:

  • The majority of television shows teens are exposed to with sexual content as described by the study release don’t accurately communicate the health outcomes, either physical or emotional, associated with the high-risk behavior. These can include increased risk for sexually transmitted infections, impaired reproductive health, and negative emotional repercussions. Rather, television shows typically glamorize sex with little, if any, depiction of potential consequences.
  • In addition, television shows typically do not portray characters that choose to practice sexual abstinence outside of marriage who do not have the accompanying concerns of their counterparts who engage in sexual activity - two being concerns about possible nonmarital pregnancy and being at increased risk for disease.
  • While as the study author states, the amount of sexual content on television has doubled in recent years, prevention messaging has not. Broadcasters need to take a more responsible approach to public health given the current epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and infections which exists among our young people.
  • Accurate health messaging, including the knowledge about the consequences and repercussions of high-risk behavior, such as adolescent pre-marital sex, is critical for prevention efforts. Reinforcement that youth are capable of practicing risk avoidance behavior or sexual abstinence is also key.
  • Given the level of exposure teens have to both the television shows measured in the Rand study and similar messaging from other media bombarding youth with sexual content, both parents and health care providers need to emphasize the prevention message, the best of which is risk avoidance or abstinence, and the benefits of practicing it.

Recommended reading for both parents and young adults: “Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting our Children,” by Drs. Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush. Watch for an FRC Book Lecture at the beginning of 2009 at which Drs. McIlhaney and Bush will discuss how new research in the field of neuroscience is shedding light on the impact having sex has on teens and young adults.

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