Significant Risks of Oral Contraceptives (OCPs): Why This Drug Should NOT Be Included In a Preventive Care Mandate

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By Rebecca Peck

Dear Friends,
I just wanted you to see this thread of a discussion on some points related to the HHS mandate.
Although the religious liberty issue is universally compelling, another crucial point is that birth control is NOT preventative care (see below). The current administration wants this to be about the Catholic Bishops denying women their “women’s health”. This is why I feel our recent research article is so timely and important right now (1). The pill is not a warm little fuzzy harmless object. It causes significant harm and the American people have been deceived for long enough. As a practicing physician, I see the fallout every day—young women with blood clots in their legs, strokes, early breast cancer, HPV, and cervical cancer. This is NOT about women’s health; it is about preventing and killing babies. The present administration will try to pit US Bishops against women and try to portray the bishops as a bunch of old men that don’t want women to have their “women’s health” options, but this has no credibility.
Every day, I, my husband Benjamin, and other doctors like us do TRUE preventative care. We do pap smears looking for cervical cancer, perform breast exams looking for breast cancer, refer for mammograms, order colonoscopies looking for colon cancer, and give immunizations to prevent pneumonia and influenza. These time-tested measures are very different from prescribing a pill to prevent a CHILD. A child is not a disease. Pregnancy and fertility are not disease states; they are normal physiological processes of the human body.
The point also needs to be hammered home that we are not just talking about insurance mandated contraception—we are talking sterilizations, “morning-after” pills, and abortions. Christians and Catholics can come together on the abortion issue. Accordingly, the way the pill causes abortions needs to be explained in a coherent manner (2). Manufacturers of the current birth control pill formulations have reduced estrogen content in an attempt to reduce some of the risks cited above. But, reducing the estrogen increases the likelihood of ovulation. The pill’s “backup” mechanism then comes into play by preventing implantation of the several day old embryo into the uterine wall. Since life begins at conception, the layperson can understand that this necessarily means that the new life is aborted.
Finally, regarding the recent decision of Komen to reinstate support for PP, the hypocrisy of this must be exposed. Birth control and abortion—PP’s 2 major lines of business—INCREASE the risk of breast cancer (3).
All people of integrity want women to have options regarding their family planning, but why are the only discussed options those that are contrary to the Catholic Church’s teaching? Fertility awareness and modern methods of Natural Family Planning—over a dozen distinct methods—cause NO harms at all! All have wonderful benefits for women that empower them, strengthen their families, and work with their bodies in the natural way God created them.

Rebecca Peck, MD

PS It should also be pointed out that HAVING children and BREASTFEEDING—a woman using her body as it is designed—actually protect a woman’s health. Pregnancy is not a disease; pregnancy PREVENTS disease.
(1) Peck, R; Norris, C. “Why OCPs Should Not Be Part of a Preventative Care Mandate: Significant Risks and Harms of OCPs”, Linacre Quarterly, Feb 2012 (forthcoming)
(2) Stanford, J; Larrimore, W. “Postfertilization effects of OCPs”
(3) Kahlenborn, C. and

Dr Rebecca Peck, MD, is a family physician who teaches NFP (symtothermal and Marquette methods) and fertility awareness to women through her practice and parish (Prince of Peace, Ormond Beach, FL). Her husband Ben is also a family physician, and they practice together at Pecks’ Family Practice. “He is an amazing man, and we both love the teachings of our Catholic faith and are very active in our local Catholic Medical Association guild and parish. We have 6 children (ages 9, 7, 6, 5, 3, and 9 months). God has been very good to us.”


3 Responses to “Significant Risks of Oral Contraceptives (OCPs): Why This Drug Should NOT Be Included In a Preventive Care Mandate”

  1. Cat says:

    Thank you so much for intelligently explaining why OCPs aren’t part of preventative healthcare!

  2. Mrsather says:

    Great words of advice!

  3. kiannafleur says:

    Dr. Peck, you write: ”
    The pill’s “backup” mechanism then comes into play by preventing implantation of the several day old embryo into the uterine wall. Since life begins at conception, the layperson can understand that this necessarily means that the new life is aborted.”

    I’ve had college biology classes, and as part of my degree in education for those with special needs, I’ve had to learn, and have to keep abreast of new knowledge about human development from before the moment of fertilization. The technical term we used for fertilization was “conception.” I assumed that everyone (“laymen”) knew was “conception” is, being one of the few bits of jargon that’s in widespread use.

    But recently, in conversations with two intelligent Catholic women who have had some college (but couldn’t continue due to finances), they used the term “conception” in a way that raised a flag for me.

    I asked the younger woman (age 31) to define her meaning, and she quoted a dictionary that defines “conception” as “implantation of the fertilized ovum in the endometrium; pregnancy.”

    The conversation I had with the older woman (age 59-60) began when I cautioned her that a certain product may have been developed through experimentation with fetal stem cells from the infamous Stem Cell Lines — research on which was promoted as beneficial for the purpose of preventing and curing disease,  but in this case was used commercially in anti-aging products. She asked if the product included aborted fetal cells, and I answered that as far as I knew the stem cells came from those stem cell lines that were derived from unused frozen embryos. She brushed off all concern at that and brought up the topic hormonal birth control pills including the morning after pill, and said, “People who say those are forms of abortion have it wrong, because abortion can’t occur if there’s not a conception, and even the morning after pill is taken before conception occurs because the egg hasn’t implanted!”

    This indicates a need to start using the term “fertilization” so that laymen truly understand the Church’s position and actual biological fact.

    Incidentally, all of my biology teachers were against hormonal birth control. The first point they brought up was the deception from the medical community and its impact not only on those of religious faith, but all women and men of conscience. Even the atheist promoted informed consent, in which a woman being prescribed the Pill would be informed explicitly that the Pill does NOT prevent conception (fertilization) and may act as an abortifacient if conception (fertilization) occurs. To the atheist biology professor, it was merely a matter of ethics to promote the individual’s right to freedom to use reason and be guided by conscience. To the Baptist and Catholic biology professors, it was a moral imperative to grant this right.

    The secondary point was their primary concern: Women’s health, including the health of their young female students. Again, they discussed deception from the medical community, such as the caveat, “The Pill may increase the risk of blood clot and stroke, so if you use it, you should not smoke.” My professors claimed (and from what I’ve read in the research since then) SMOKING IS NOT A FACTOR — in other words, a woman who smokes while taking the Pill is not at higher risk than a woman who does NOT smoke while taking the Pill: their risk is about equal,  the difference being too negligible to be statistically significant. But by phrasing the warning as they do, the medical and pharmacology professions deceptively impart a feeling of security from risk among Pill users who don’t smoke. That’s especially dangerous, because those women won’t be as likely to take their symptoms seriously or obtain medical intervention in time. And all of my professors had students who had suffered debilitating stroke, even when hormone levels were supposedly “safe.” They also raised a concern about the accuracy of statistics, because not everything gets reported to CDC — they knew from experience how easy it is to “bury the bodies.” Their caution: assume about a 1/3 higher risk than is reported, especially when there’s a lot at stake.

    This caution also applies to the “effectiveness” rate, claimed to be 95-99%. At the time I was taking college classes, I already knew a number of women who knew they hadn’t missed a dose and had taken it religiously at the same time each day, yet became pregnant. My bio profs noted this common experience, and discussed how it’s dismissed from official statistics as “anecdote,” on the basis that patients are unlikely to be truthful AND the real world isn’t a controlled laboratory setting, so you can’t count what really happens. But you CAN base advice to patients on what happens in the controlled world of the laboratory, and you can call it “reliable” and “factual.”

    Since that time, I’ve known a lot more children who have come into the world despite their mothers’ use of the Pill. Sadly, I’ve also known more women who have been rendered infertile by hormonal birth control that stops ovulation for months at a time.

    I see hormonal birth control as a war on women.

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