By Tony Gosgnach
The InterimA talk given by an obstetrician-gynecologist from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, a Catholic institution, at this year’s Women’s Health Matters Forum and Expo – and subsequent reporting on the event by Interim and LifeSite news service personnel – has prompted the hospital to correct its internal processes on how its physicians represent the hospital’s mission and values.
Dr. Sari Kives gave the address, entitled, “What to Pack for the Island of Temptation: The Naked Truth About Contraception,” to adolescent girls at the forum and expo on Jan. 16. The talk touched on areas of contraception and abortion that weren’t in keeping with Catholic church teachings.
Initially, Kives denied and “firmly rejected” the suggestion that she gave the address as reported in a LifeSite daily dispatch. She was supported by hospital administration, which told people who e-mailed in protest and concern that the article did “not accurately represent the content and context of the discussion she had with the audience.”
However, after being furnished with definitive proof that Kives gave the address precisely as reported by LifeSite, Chuckie Shevlen, the hospital’s director of mission and values, said hospital administration regretted that the incident happened. She added that St. Michael’s physicians are expected to honour the Catholic health care ethics guide in their practice, when they have privileges within a Catholic hospital.
Shevlen said hospital administration has since spoken to Kives, who claimed that she did no intend to misrepresent the values of St. Michael’s Hospital.
“The hospital does not promote sex in teens,” said Shevlen. “Following our investigation, we believe that the physician is committed to fulfilling our mission and values, and understands the issues that have arisen from this situation.”
At the forum and expo, Kives told her youthful audience that the first “essential” one should always pack when going to the “island” of sexual temptation is condoms. “You have to realize that when you have sex – I’m not saying don’t have sex – but you just need to protect yourself,” she said. “Birth control is readily available in Canada. We’re very lucky living in Canada … You can go to Planned Parenthood.”
Kives also pushed use of the birth control pill, which is forbidden among Catholics by Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. “You can just take the pill continuously. That’s safe … They’re not seeing any long-term effects of being on the pill continuously.”
She also encouraged her listeners to consider the injectible contraceptive Depo Provera, calling it “a good form of contraception” and “very safe.” She claimed there are no contraindications to it.
However, that conflicts with the findings of McMaster University researchers, who suggest that Depo Provera leads to a 100 times greater susceptibility to herpes and a weaker immune response. Other studies reveal that the contraceptive may cause physical changes that increase the risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, Boston University researchers have acknowledged that Depo Provera can be used as an abortion method.
Speaking of abortion, Kives stressed to her young charges the necessity of being familiar with so-called emergency contraception, which at least sometimes is abortifacient in operation.
“When you see your doctor … I would recommend that you ask your doctor for a prescription for emergency contraception before you leave the office … You can keep that in your wallet. It’s good for several years and you can pull it out when you need it.”
Kives also emphasized the option not to tell one’s parents about contraceptive use or a resort to abortion. “Adolescents who are mature minors – so if you are smart enough to go see the doctor, tell the doctor you need emergency contraception or you want to have sex, it is the doctor’s responsibility to give you birth control pills without telling your parents. So you guys get to make that decision yourself. So you don’t have to worry about that. The doctor cannot call your parents up.”
She added that having sex with someone within four years of one’s age is “okay” and “no doctor’s going to tell your parents.”
“So you can get emergency contraception, you can get the birth control pill, you can get anything … Even if you don’t want your mother to know, you need to go get your pap smear at Planned Parenthood every year.”
Kives appeared to sing the praises of contraception when she said that “there’s nothing positive about pregnancy that the (birth control) pill doesn’t protect you against.” She claimed that the pill has “lots of benefits for our health” and is almost a multi-vitamin.
“We want every child out there to be a wanted child,” she commented, in a chilling allusion to one of Henry Morgentaler’s favourite phrases.
“You want full enjoyment of the sexual experience,” Kives concluded. “Enjoyment of sex and protection (from) unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease is a right you both have … It’s nothing to be afraid of … It’s something that people will help you with … These are decisions you guys get to make.”
Dr. John Shea, a medical adviser to Campaign Life Coalition, took issue on the medical front with several of the claims made by Kives. He countered that a 1993 study examined more than 2,300 women with cervical cancer and found that: if a woman had ever taken an oral contraceptive pill, her risk of cervical cancer increased 31 per cent; if she took contraceptives over a five-year period, she had a 52 per cent increased risk; and over an eight-year period, a 123 per cent increased risk. Meanwhile, women who took oral contraceptives before age 25 had a 45 per cent increased risk.
On Depo Provera, Shea referred to the research of Dr. Chris Kahlenborn, who indicated that studies show women who use the injectible contraceptive for two-and-a-half years prior to age 25 have a 190 per cent increased risk of breast cancer. The overall increased risk of Depo Provera over the long term is 62 per cent.