(CNSNews.com) – Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has launched a program in rural Ecuador that uses people ages 11 to 19 to deliver the hormone injection Depo-Provera, a birth control method that prevents the release of eggs from the ovaries.
In a Dec. 15 article in Global Health Magazine about the program, Veena Siddharth, vice president for international programs for PPFA, and Dee Redwine, PPFA Latin America regional director, wrote about the “peer-to-peer” model that Planned Parenthood operates through a partnership with the Ecuadoran group, Centro Medico de Orientacion y Planificacion Familiar, or CEMOPLAF.
“What if I told you that Juan, a community health care worker in rural Ecuador, is providing injectable contraceptives outside the clinic setting to indigenous community members?” the article begins. “What if I told you that Juan is actually a 15-year-old and the clients he’s reaching are also youth?”
The article goes on the say that Juan is one of about 30 young people, ages 11 to 19, who receive training, including “introduction to injections in general, training in Depo Provera in particular” and bio-safety procedures. The teens also hand out other contraceptives, including birth control pills and condoms.
The article states that the program reaches the most hard to reach indigenous people because “for the first-time user, it’s less invasive than other long-acting methods.”
“Add to that confidentiality (no pill pack laying around), the accessibility (outside clinic walls), and the convenience (a promoter comes to you every 12 weeks.),” the article states.
It is unclear from Planned Parenthood’s latest report if any of the $349.6 million it receives from the federal government – which is prevented by law to fund abortion but can be used for other family planning expenses – is part of the $6.9 million the organization reports using for its “International Family Planning Programs” for the fiscal year 2007-2008.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, a non-profit group that advocates against population control through abortion and other means, called the program “dangerous.”
“We know Ecuador has a left-wing government,” Mosher told CNSNews.com, “but to allow this kind of program to go forward, I mean, just think of the emotional and the medical consequences of allowing teenagers – you can’t even get teenagers to make up their bed – and you are going to allow them to go out and inject their peers with a powerful, steroid-based drug without a medical examination, without awareness of any counter indication of taking the drug?
“This is a dangerous prescription for young people in Ecuador,” Mosher said.
Calls to Pfizer, the American pharmaceutical company that manufacturers Depo-Provera, were not returned, but its Web site contains many warnings about the drug, including one for physicians who prescribe the drug.
“Women who use Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection may lose significant bone mineral density,” the warning states. “Bone loss is greater with increasing duration of use and may not be completely reversible.
“It is unknown if use of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection during adolescence or early adulthood, a critical period of bone accretion, will reduce peak bone mass and increase the risk of osteoporotic facture in later life,” the warning continues.
CNSNews.com tried repeatedly by phone and by e-mail to ask Planned Parenthood questions about the program in Ecuador, including 1) how the program is funded; 2) who trains the teens to provide injections; 3) how the women who are given the contraceptive are selected; 4) if parental notice is required in Ecuador; and 5) whether teens treated outside the clinic receive medical supervision.
Planned Parenthood did not respond to CNSNews.com’s requests.
Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League, a pro-life advocacy group, said there is a reason why Planned Parenthood operates such programs outside of the United States.
“It’s absolutely outrageous and, of course, this would be totally illegal here in the United States,” Sedlak told CNSNews.com, adding that the medical aspect is not the only reason the program is objectionable.
“It is an assault on parental authority,” Sedlak said. “Certainly, Planned Parenthood has used these peer-to-peer programs frequently all over the United States, but they’ve carried it to a horrible extreme in Ecuador where they have 15-year-old kids going out and giving birth control shots to other 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kids.”
Mosher said that contraceptive injections do not protect young people from sexually transmitted diseases and can actually encourage them to become sexually active.
“It encourages risky sexual behavior, absolutely,” Mosher said.
The article by the Planned Parenthood staff said the organization plans to expand the program in Ecuador over the next two years.