Christina Francis, AAPLOG’s board chairman, said the group’s 5,500 doctors hold diverse views on contraception, but uniformly oppose birth control methods with a “clear post-fertilization effect” such as “morning-after” pills Plan B and Ella. She says more research is needed on other methods: “Some methods we take a hard-line stance on, but for methods there are questions about, we simply say, ‘Here is the information we have. It’s up to you to decide.’”
She points to a further concern: Combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in the United States in 2018, and some hormonal birth control methods increase the likelihood of transmitting those STDs. She fears pro-life clinics risk “watering down” the abstinence message: “It’s important that remains their No. 1 message to women.”
BACK IN OKLAHOMA, the new direction cost Eden Clinic church support. Pastor Ronnie W. Rogers of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., felt so strongly that he preached an hourlong Sunday sermon charging that Eden Clinic’s “new direction” is “neither consistent with Scripture nor [its] founding documents” as a “Christ-centered … Biblically-compassionate” crisis pregnancy center. The church posted a video of the sermon on Facebook and withdrew its financial support.
Another church owned the property Eden Clinic used rent-free. When that church withdrew its support, Wells had to relocate the clinic.
The cost to the unity of the pregnancy center movement is hard to quantify. Clinics that dispense contraceptives can no longer be affiliated with the nation’s three largest pregnancy center networks—Care Net, Heartbeat International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA).
These groups, which provide training and hold members to high standards of care, agreed in 2009 to a joint code of ethics, the “Commitment of Care and Competence,” that prohibits centers from dispensing contraceptives: “We do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions, abortifacients or contraceptives. We are committed to offering accurate information about related risks and procedures.”
“[Clients need] someone to help them see a better way—not the birth control pill.”
Care Net and Heartbeat International have recently reaffirmed this standard in statements, podcasts, and videos. Care Net President Roland Warren declined an interview, but in a Dec. 3 CareCast podcast episode he said the group primarily opposes giving contraceptives to unmarried women. Its 1,100 affiliated pregnancy centers act as “parachurch ministries,” he noted, and should extend “compassion with truth” to those engaging in sex outside of marriage: “Christ never violated Biblical principles in order to preserve a relationship.”
Similarly, Heartbeat International’s Jor-El Godsey addressed the contraceptive controversy in an email appeal to affiliates in October to “find clarity” in their mission and “firm foundation” in the values that have upheld “the supernatural empowerment of the pregnancy help movement.”
Pregnancy resource centers for 40 years have survived the abortion movement’s harassment, media attacks, and investigations. The latest challenge comes from within.
While nearly a dozen contraceptive methods exist today, many are used imperfectly and carry a 7 percent to 13 percent failure rate. Some pro-lifers I spoke to feared the distribution of birth control drugs and devices at pro-life clinics would contribute to additional unplanned pregnancies—and perhaps unintentionally, additional abortions.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of the 6.1 million U.S. pregnancies in 2011 were “unintended.” Of those, 42 percent ended in abortion. Guttmacher research found that women who use contraceptives consistently and correctly account for 5 percent of all unintended pregnancies, while those who use them inconsistently account for 41 percent.
Some growing chains of pro-life clinics—like Guiding Star Project and Obria Medical Clinics, based in Minnesota and California, respectively—promote natural family planning to clients instead of birth control drugs or devices. Obria CEO Kathleen Bravo said women are increasingly receptive to a “holistic” approach to protecting their bodies and fertility. —M.J.