Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2017

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Sun Editorial:

Trump targeting women’s health, rights on contraception mandate

Not content to merely choke off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the Trump administration is preparing another attack on women’s health and reproductive rights.

Using junk science and scare tactics, members of President Donald Trump’s team are squaring up to overturn a federal requirement for most insurance plans to cover contraception and then defend their actions from a legal challenge.

Among those involved are Katy Talento, a White House domestic policy aide who has been spreading false information about the health effects of birth control during her 16 years on Capitol Hill.

Talento, who as served as an aide to such anti-abortion zealots as former Kansas Sen. (now Gov. ) Sam Brownback and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., has warned women that contraception may be “breaking your uterus” and causing miscarriages. Talento’s further said that the longer women use birth control the more likely they’ll “ruin your uterus for baby-hosting” and suggested there’s a conspiracy between medical officials and drug manufacturers to promote use of birth control drugs that are known to contain carcinogens.

It’s nonsense.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, a University of Wisconsin professor of law and bioethics cited Talento as one of four members of the Trump administration who was applying “alternative science” to human reproduction.

“Alternative science begins with alternative facts of the sort propounded by the Trump administration and its appointees, including Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, who has claimed that “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control on her own (despite the high upfront cost of the most reliable contraceptives),” the professor, R. Alta Charo, wrote. “Alternative science is similarly embraced by recent executive-branch appointees Valerie Huber (abstinence advocate who was appointed to Health and Human Services staff), Teresa Manning (anti-abortion advocate now on HHS staff), Charmaine Yoest (anti-abortion advocate now on HHS staff) and Katy Talento.

On Talento, Charo wrote that she “has published some particularly outlandish articles on this topic, misciting a 2012 study whose author disavowed her description of his work in asserting that contraceptives are ‘breaking your uterus.’ Facts matter.”

And those facts? The New York Times cited the National Cancer Institute in reporting that while some studies have shown that oral contraceptives may pose a risk of a slight increase in breast, cervical and liver cancer, some data for those conclusions came from older studies involving formulas and dosages that are less common today.

In addition, the Times reported that oral contraceptives can reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Meanwhile, the role that contraceptives plays in reducing unwanted pregnancies and giving women more control over their reproductive rights is unquestionable.

But true to form, the Trump administration isn’t letting science get in the way of its agenda. Not only has Trump ordered staff to roll back the contraception requirement, but it’s prepared a defense for a legal challenge.

This is alarming. Making it more difficult to obtain birth control is hateful toward women and an attack on public health.

Combined with the GOP’s attempt to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that would cut critical health care for millions of women, it would be devastating, especially to lower-income Americans.

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