Contraceptive legislation raises moral issues, health concerns

By Victoria Arthur

Statehouse Correspondent for Indiana’s Catholic Newspapers

A bill aimed at providing low-income women with long-acting contraceptives in the hospital immediately following childbirth has generated numerous concerns for pro-life advocates including the Indiana Catholic Conference.

House Bill 1426 would require hospitals to offer a woman eligible for or receiving Medicaid assistance the option of having a long-acting, reversible contraceptive implanted before she is discharged from the hospital following delivery of her baby. While acknowledging that faith-based hospitals with religious objections would be exempt from the requirement, the Indiana Catholic Conference expressed concerns about the legislation and requested an amendment to have Natural Family Planning (NFP) offered to new mothers as well. 

“We are grateful for the religious exemption so that a Catholic hospital could opt out of this requirement, but it’s disappointing that our amendment to the legislation was not accepted,” said Angela Espada, ICC executive director, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana. “If the goal is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, hospitals should also provide information about NFP – one of the most effective and least costly methods of planning a family, and the only one that does not pose health risks to the woman.”

The bill was scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor at press time, just days before the conclusion of this short session of the Indiana General Assembly. The ICC’s objections to the legislation go beyond the Catholic Church’s well documented arguments against artificial contraception. Espada said that the ICC is equally dismayed by the targeting of a particular demographic: low-income women.  

“Aside from the Church’s position on this type of contraception, it seemed to me during testimony on this bill that people were placing a value on the types of babies who should be born,” said Espada, who testified against the legislation during a House committee hearing. “It was distressing to me to hear comments like that, and I think it should be for anyone. As the testimony continued, it wasn’t just about unwanted pregnancies. It was about unwanted pregnancies from a particular type of person. When you talk along those lines – that certain types of people are better off not having children – you get dangerously close to eugenics.”

The proponents for House Bill 1426 argued that half of the babies born in Indiana are born to mothers on Medicaid. They also pointed to the challenging circumstances that many low-income women face and the fact that many do not seek pre- or post-natal care. 

“That should be concerning also, because why would you want to implant chemical contraception into someone who is not going to see a doctor on a regular basis?” Espada said. 

Dr. Michael Padilla, co-founder of the Franciscan FertilityCare Center in Indianapolis, raised similar red flags. He cited numerous health concerns associated with this type of artificial contraception – from cancer risk to known side effects of mood swings, pain, increased weight gain and abnormal bleeding. 

“In certain areas of medicine where it’s permissible for us to use contraceptives for treatment, such as endometriosis, the language used for contraceptives in that scenario in the literature is ‘suppressive therapy,’ and that speaks quite well to the truth,” Padilla said. “So this is suppressing female physiologic function. It is inherently inducing a disease state. A woman is supposed to have a healthy cycle.”

With regard to House Bill 1426, he also expressed dismay about what he characterized as a “coercive and manipulative” approach to pushing this type of birth control on women when they are most vulnerable.

“There is something beautiful about birth, and inherently exhausting too,” Padilla said. “So you’re approaching a woman when she’s tired, she is probably in some pain, and now she has a baby she is overwhelmed with but loves completely. And humanistically speaking, you are now taking advantage of someone in impressing an ideology upon them that they are not at a place to consent to.

“Moreover, it’s audacious to tell someone that you’re not smart enough, or stable enough, to have someone else in your life that you can love and who will love you back,” he added. “We don’t need to assume things about people and make judgments about what’s good for them. We can do better than this.”

Padilla, the 2022 recipient of the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Respect Life Award, acknowledged that it is unhealthy for a woman to become pregnant again not long after giving birth. But he added that while “medical risks are hypothetical, moral evils are real and present now.”

The Catholic Church’s long history of social teaching on these issues culminated with St. Pope John Paul II’s groundbreaking encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” or “The Gospel of Life.” This document, arguably the best-known and most-quoted affirmation of the Church’s moral teaching on the sanctity of life, includes numerous arguments against artificial contraception.  

One especially serious concern involves instances in which hormonal birth control can serve as an abortifacient – that is, a drug that could cause an abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. 

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) were originally included in House Bill 1426, but debate over their potential abortifacient effects led to them being eliminated. 

As leaders of the ICC await the outcome of House Bill 1426, they are also looking at pro-life legislation through a more wholistic and long-term lens. They say they will continue to push for child tax credits, paid family leave and pregnancy accommodations in the workplace to support mothers and families, especially those in challenging circumstances.

“We want to look at ways to wrap mothers in need, and ways that we can be partners with the state in this,” said Alexander Mingus, associate director of the ICC. “Let’s pour as many resources as we can toward creating a culture of life.” 

To follow priority legislation of the ICC, visit