Stop the presses--F.D.A. declares condoms prevent pregnancy

| Fri Nov. 11, 2005 4:18 PM EST

The Food and Drug Administration has released a 63-page report that declares, among other things, that latex condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy and in reducing the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.
The report will form the basis on new condom packaging in the United States.

The F.D.A.'s report also concludes that latex condoms are less effective against genital herpes, syphillis, and the human papillomavirus than they are against potential pregnancy and other STD's. The human papillomavirus--the leading cause of cervical cancer--has become the subject of a new right-wing campaign to "protect" girls from being sexually active. There is now a vaccine that can be given to protect against the human papillomavirus, and it is expected to be submitted to the F.D.A. for approval soon. However, it is most effective when given to pre-teen girls, which has some conservatives in a dither. Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, for example, has stated that "giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex."

Of course, multiple studies, such as the ones done by the World Health Organization, have been done about the effectiveness of using latex condoms, both alone and in combination with a spermicide. But in the past several years, many attempts have been made to promote the idea that condoms are ineffective. Three years ago, the Centers for Disease Control replaced their online fact sheet about condom use with one that omitted important information about condom use, and a hallmark of the Bush administration's school abstinence program has been the promotion of the idea that condoms are not effective.

The White House has gotten assistance from the Catholic Church in its campaign to discourage condom use. In 2003, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, told the Fourth World Meeting of Families that condoms are not effective in preventing pregnancy.

The new F.D.A. report has drawn criticism from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who also happens to be a physician. Coburn calls the report "misleading," and that condom labels provide "dangerous reassurance."

Coburn's medical specialties include family practice and obstetrics.

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