Mixed reaction to Jindal's position on oral contraceptives

Published: Dec. 14, 2012 at 10:51 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 21, 2012 at 10:51 PM CST
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Amber Naresh, M.D. of Tulane's OB-GYN Department
Amber Naresh, M.D. of Tulane's OB-GYN Department

New Orleans, La. — Reaction is mixed to Governor Bobby Jindal's stance on birth control pills.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Jindal wrote that oral contraceptives should be available over the counter without a prescription. That has drawn criticism from the Catholic Church.

In the newspaper opinion article "The End of Birth-Control Politics," Jindal wrote, "As a conservative Republican, I believe that we have been stupid to let the Democrats demagogue the contraceptives issue and pretend, during debates about health-care insurance, that Republicans are somehow against birth control. It's a disingenuous political argument they make."

"This is a political calculation on the governor's part that Republicans have a problem with women in general and with unmarried women in particular.  A majority of women voted for Obama in the last election," said UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak.

Jindal said in the op-ed that he agrees with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which announced its support recently for having oral contraceptives sold over the counter without a prescription.

On the streets of New Orleans, women had differing views.

"I believe certain ones should be, yes, there should be easy access to anyone who needs them," said June Pennick.

"There's two perspectives.  I mean, it depends on whether or not young adults or young ladies have children and keep that under control.  Or the other perspective is, if they're not healthy enough to, you're going to cause yourself a problem, so it's not that simple," said Angie Wulff.

Dr. Amber Naresh of Tulane's OB-GYN Department addressed the issue.

"When I first heard that the American College of OB-GYN recommended that birth control pills should be available over the counter, I was initially concerned because birth control pills do come with certain risks," Dr. Naresh stated.

But, she said, after further research into the position the organization took, she amended her opinion and now supports the idea.

"There are definitely women who shouldn't take the pill, but there are two points... One is that what the College of OB-GYN recommends is that women or pharmacists use a simple checklist to see whether they have any contra-indications to taking the birth control pill.  And that checklist would include things like high blood pressure and certain cancers," she said.

Dr. Naresh says, even if birth control pills eventually become available over the counter, women should see their physician and discussion the use of contraception.

In the opinion article, Jindal stated, "Democrats have wrongly accused Republicans of being against birth control and against allowing people to use it. That's hogwash. But Republicans do want to protect those who have religious beliefs that are opposed to contraception."

Still, the Catholic Church opposes his position.

"We disagree with his stance on this issue. The Catholic Church teaches that the use of birth control and contraception is contrary to church teachings," said Sarah McDonald, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Dr. Chervenak said Jindal's position may rub some people the wrong way in his own political party.  "Certainly he's going to get some opposition and some push back on this issue," Chervenak further stated.

But he said Jindal is looking down the road, politically.  "The sense is that he is going to run in 2016, so he's positioning himself, trying to broaden republican appeal beyond its base right now," Chervenak said.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to Jindal's position:

We agree with Governor Jindal that access to birth control should not be a political issue. Ensuring access to basic, preventive health care including birth control is a top priority for Planned Parenthood.

As the nation's leading women's health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood knows firsthand how critical the birth control benefit is for women and families, not just for their health but also for their pocketbooks.

Fortunately, the preventive benefits of the Affordable Care will help ease the struggle of deciding whether to pay for birth control or pay for textbooks, groceries, or gas for the car.