State IUD campaign risky for women, expert says

The state health department made progress last week in gaining support for a $5 million boost to its free contraceptives program targeted to low-income teenagers and young women.

A bill proposing the use of state funds for wider access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and other services, House Bill 1194, is touted as the answer to preventing unplanned pregnancies by advocates.

Some dissenters of the bill said rather than an infallible way to prevent pregnancy—like abstinence—LARCs are risky and undermine the dignity of women.

Josephine “Joyce” Dennison, a physician assistant and mother who attends Light of the World Parish, said she sees the impact of inter-uterine devices on women.

“At work, I see a lot of psychological and social consequences of casual sex, while using contraception, including LARCs,” said Dennison, who works at Alternatives Pregnancy Center and Our Lady of Hope Medical Clinic in Littleton. “Women start very young having sex, they have multiple partners, or have sex with someone who has multiple partners. There’s unaccountability on both sides, trust issues, manipulation, lack of voice, and most importantly, broken hearts.”

A study by the University of Colorado at Denver in 2007 revealed teenage girls’ chances of earning a high school diploma increased—by almost 18 percent—if they waited for sex until 18 years old.

“The reasoning behind this may be when teens become sexually active, they are preoccupied with the present, investing more time and energy on the relationship versus their school work, compared to teens who abstain,” Dennison said.

Since 2008, the state health department has provided IUDs and implants at a low cost or free for women ages 15-24 through its clinics. LARC advocates credit the program with increased use of contraception—between 5 and 19 percent—and decreased the expected number of unintended pregnancies by 29 percent in 2011 for women ages 15-19.

But with increased use comes increased risk, advocates say, and the likelihood of impacting a women’s health.

The Colorado Catholic Conference, the state lobbying arm for the Church, announced it opposes the bill.

“The CCC is deeply concerned about the consequences of widespread temporary sterilization of women and girls in Colorado; these forms of contraception do nothing to prevent STDs and there is nothing to suggest that the psychological and medical risks and costs associated with increased sexual activity will be managed or addressed by this legislation,” the conference stated.

During a hearing at the Capitol Feb. 24, Dennison commented to lawmakers that some IUDs, like Mirena and Skyla, have caused medical issues.

“IUDs as a whole can migrate, perforate the uterus (and) lodge in other parts of the body, like the fallopian tubes or the bowels. IUDs can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, uterine perforation and pelvic inflammatory disease,” Dennison said.

Mirena warning labels announce a close to 50 percent chance of an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tubes) if a user becomes pregnant, which can be life threatening.

The so-called short terms costs to the state for aiding young pregnant women could become long-term costs if they experience health issues or resulting emotional, psychological or medical consequences, opponents say.

LARCs also cause a loss of respect for women.

In the encyclical Humanae Vitae (“Human Life”), Pope Paul VI said “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Fertility, Dennison said, should be seen as a blessing from God not a curse.

“Each person is created in God’s image and each of us is intricately and wonderfully made,” she said. “In women, a complex interplay of natural hormones bring about fertility. Because LARCs disregards and subdues a woman’s fertility, it dishonors women.”

For more information about House Bill 1194, visit www.cocatholicconference.org.

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.