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Reproductive Health

The ability of Americans to access reproductive health services is under full-scale assault from groups who seek to impose their religious beliefs on others, and change the law to prevent women from making decisions about their own bodies. From laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control; to outlandish restrictions that are closing abortion providers across the country; to Supreme Court cases claiming a religious right to deny one’s employees access to reproductive health care — the Religious Right is relentless in its attacks on access to contraception and abortion.


That safe, affordable, easily available contraception has been an unprecedented boon to society is accepted by all but those with a religious axe to grind. The idea of sex without the purpose of procreation is a threatening one to some religious groups, leading to their ongoing campaign against contraception.

  • The Contraceptive Mandate. The Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) included, for the first time, an affirmative requirement that preventive health services, including all forms of prescription contraception, be provided at no additional cost to plan holders. Conservative religious groups and companies promptly sued, sued, and sued again.
    • The Supreme Court in March heard oral arguments from Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods Specialties, two for-profit corporations seeking a religious exemption from the Contraceptive Mandate. They claimed not only that the owners’ religious beliefs were offended by employees having access to contraception, but that the corporations themselves had religious beliefs that warranted protection. CFI, on behalf of a group of secular organizations, filed an amicus brief, arguing that a religious exemption that places a burden on a third party violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If the Court rules in favor of corporations having religious beliefs, there will be a flood of claims for religious exemptions: from Jehovah’s Witnesses seeking to avoid insuring blood transfusions to Christian Scientists seeking to avoid providing health insurance at all. Whatever the result of this case, CFI will continue to fight for the principle that an owner’s private religious beliefs should not trump the secular rights of the employees.
    • 39 non-profit organizations, such as the University of Notre Dame, have filed to be exempted from the Contraceptive Mandate. Religious non-profits were given an extremely generous opt-out clause by the Obama administration. If a religious organization did not wish to provide contraception coverage, it simply needed to sign a form saying so, and the coverage would be provided by the insurance company without cost to, or participation by, the religious non-profit. That such an accommodation was not sufficient indicates the true agenda of the religious groups – it is not to avoid involvement in the provision of contraception, but instead to limit employees’ access to contraception. Their unconstitutional aim is to force their religious beliefs onto the population at large. CFI is currently seeking to file an amicus brief in support of the government against this flagrant imposition of religious dogma onto private health care decisions.
  • “Conscience Clauses”
    • 95% of American women use contraception at some time in their lives. Over 50% of American women rely on prescription methods, such as the oral contraceptive pill, IUDs, and Plan B. In order to restrict access to these methods, religious groups have invented a fallacious religious freedom claim – that medical professionals should not be required to do their jobs (supply prescribed medication) when doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs. As a result, multiple states have passed so-called “conscience clauses” permitting pharmacists to refuse to fill valid prescriptions. 13 states currently allow health care providers to refuse to provide contraception services, including 6 that explicitly provide for pharmacists to refuse service (AZ, AR, GA, IL, MS, SD). CFI believes such laws infringe on a woman’s right to medical care, and will continue to oppose such laws when they are proposed, and work to repeal such laws that already exist.


Since Roe v. Wade in 1973, the United States has recognized that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion services early in her pregnancy. This decision has never been accepted by the Religious Right, and they have worked ceaselessly to get the decision overturned or rendered moot.


This section will be updated as news develops on this topic.



The greatest public health achievement in human history has been the advent, development, and steadfast implementation of vaccines. Using vaccines, two virulent diseases—smallpox and rinderpest—have been eradicated from the globe, and many others that have tortured and killed humans and other animals for centuries, if not millennia, have been forced to the brink. Hundreds of millions of lives have been saved, and billions of lives have been vastly improved.

The History of Vaccines and Vaccine Denial

Globally, and in the United States and United Kingdom especially, a political battle has sometimes raged between those concerned foremost with public health and those motivated by a misguided and extreme individualism. Those who resist vaccination have at times relied on strains of anti-establishment resentment towards medical authorities and the state, surging along on a torrent of ignorance about the morbid pandemics of even our most recent history. More important than resistance to vaccines based on political ideology, however, has been the resistance resulting from religion and pseudoscience. Very often the forces arrayed against vaccination have found their inspiration in religious dogma, but in recent decades a more conspiratorial, pseudoscientific paranoia has arisen alongside to inspire further vaccine refusal.

The MMR Vaccine-Autism Fraud and Fallout

Following the 1998 publication of unethical profiteer-doctor Andrew Wakefield’s dishonest and now-retracted paper in The Lancet—claiming a link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine and autism and intestinal disorders—the backlash against vaccines erupted anew. Aided by celebrity endorsement and promotion from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Oprah Winfrey, and others (some of who now deny ever doing so), along with numerous acts of flagrantly irresponsible science journalism, all manner of unfounded claims and conspiracies were leveled at a number of vaccines, vaccine makers, and medical authorities. They have been particularly effective in sowing doubt about vaccine safety with emotional appeals to the safety of children, often using their own children as anecdotal examples. In spite of those claims being universally dismantled, newer vaccines, such as Gardasil, which safely protects against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), have been subject to the same anti-scientific and conspiratorial thinking ignited by Wakefield’s false claims.

Diseases Once Thought Tamed Rage Again

As with many modern social contagions, the beliefs of the formerly fringe anti-vaccination movement have been injected into the mainstream via mass media and the Internet. Subsequently, vaccination rates have dropped, and as medical science warned, where vaccination rates have dropped herd immunity has been compromised. In those voids (see this harrowing map from the Netherlands for one example), the vaccines’ target diseases have risen from the grave, especially tormenting the pregnant, the newborn, the sick, the elderly, and those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Measles, Pertussis, and even child-paralyzing polio have seen a resurgence in places where they were once thought to be vanquished, or nearly so. California, New York, and other states have seen outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) centered on the unvaccinated in recent years. In the United States, 2011 marked a 15-year high for Measles cases. New York, Ohio, California, Indiana, and the District of Columbia have all seen outbreaks centered on the unvaccinated.

Internationally, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, and various European Union nations have all seen significant outbreaks of measles. Polio has reemerged in Pakistan, and has spread to war-torn Syria, Iraq, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon, where public health officials and their vaccines cannot easily pursue it.

Where to Fight Back

  • Despite evidence directly linking them to unnecessary illness, suffering, and death, most US states still allow vaccine exemptions for non-medical reasons. 48 states tolerate refusal to vaccinate based on religious belief, and 18 honor an objection based merely on philosophical beliefs or conscience. (Croatia, meanwhile, has mandated all children be vaccinated.)
  • The forces of anti-vaccination—both secular and religious—now target new vaccines (such as proven-safe Gardasil) while continuing to trumpet the thoroughly disproven claims that vaccines are linked to autism and other neurological conditions.
  • The forces of anti-vaccination attack the schedule by which vaccines are administered, which has also been proven safe.
  • The forces of anti-vaccination repeatedly gain the attention of lawmakers at both the state and federal level, including holding multiple briefings for Congressional members and staff.
  • Anti-vaccination activists continue to malign and misrepresent good-faith efforts by government and public health officials to mitigate the known actual, but very rare side effects of vaccines, through initiatives like the VAERS database and Vaccine Court.
  • Anti-scientific anti-vaccine paranoia is being exported from the West to the developing world, where people are in dire need of the protection only vaccines can provide.

The suffering and the dead increase by the day, yet all the while we’ve known exactly how to save them. Help us fight back wherever you can, whether in your community, your local government, or at the state, federal, or even international level (learn more here). Few public policy battles demand such a universal effort in the name of sound science, but such an effort is exactly what must be done to keep a long history of disease and suffering behind us for good.


This section will be updated as news develops on this topic.


Alternative Medicine

So-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM or alt-med) is a nebulous collection of treatments that fall outside the realm of medicines and therapies scientifically proven to work. Though a $35 billion-a-year industry in the United States, complementary and alternative medicine consists of methods and substances that are at worst disproven, and at best unproven but unlikely to work. Efficacy and safety is the standard for medical science, and if “complementary” and “alternative” medical treatments were proven to work, and work safely, they would simply be called medicine.

Some examples of alternative medicinal treatments include: Homeopathy, acupuncture (see our report), acupressure, chiropractic, naturopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, herbal supplements/herbal medicine, Reiki, qigong, therapeutic touch, electromagnetic therapy, colonic irrigation, moxibustion, cranial sacral therapy, dietary supplements, megavitamins, water-birthing, prayer, and certain forms of meditation, among many others.

Despite extensive serious concerns about training and ability all 50 states, to varying degrees, license CAM/Alt-med advocates to practice in their states—including the license to write prescriptions. Many leave certification up to private professional organizations run by CAM/alt-med practitioners themselves, with no genuine scientific oversight. The situation is only getting worse.

All the while, CAM/alt-med practitioners such as Staniszlaw Burzinski continue to peddle false and harmful treatments to the sick, dying, and desperate. Practitioners like these must be stopped.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Since 1992, taxpayer money has funded the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, wielding a yearly budget approaching $130 million. Created with the vocal support of lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), one purpose of the NCCAM was to determine whether any evidence exists to support the claims made for various alternative treatments. 20 years and nearly $2 billion later no evidence has been found to support the alternative medical treatments the NCCAM has studied. As a 2011 report by the Center for Inquiry made clear, even if the NCCAM may have served some purpose initially, there is no longer any reason for the NCCAM to exist. It now represents a massive misuse of scarce research dollars.

Some NCCAM-funded studies include:

  • Whether coffee enemas (part of the infamous “Gonzalez protocol”) treat pancreatic cancer ($406,000)
  • Whether distant prayer can cure AIDS ($666,000)
  • Whether inhaling lemon and lavender scents helps wounds heal ($374,000)
  • Whether massage helps treat advanced pancreatic cancer ($1,250,000)
  • Energy healing ($1,180,000+)

A full list of NCCAM clinical trials can be found here.

In Government

Alt-med lobbying groups such as the American Chiropractic Association, Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium, and others have worked ceaselessly with their allies (such as Sen. Harkin) to win legislation friendly to the alternative medicine industry’s interests, and direct tax dollars (through NCCAM grants, Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA Health system) toward unproven and disproven alternative medical treatments.

During the debate and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), CAM lobbyists succeeded at inserting language (Section 2706) which requires CAM providers be covered by mandated health insurance plans, even though their treatments are not scientific, effective, and sometimes outright unsafe. Although there are questions about implementation, Section 2706 subverts the entire purpose of the ACA and should be repealed immediately.

In The Hospital

Under the guise of “integrative medicine,” alternative medicine has made inroads at hospitals, clinics, and even medical schools nationwide, including some of the most reputable. These therapies piggy-back on actual medicine, hiding their failure behind scientifically-proven medical treatments. As elsewhere, even in a hospital setting alternative medicine wastes time, money, and can lead to increased suffering and trauma for patients.

In The Drugstore

Homeopathic, herbal, and other alternative medicines litter retailers nationwide, often found on shelves directly alongside or interspersed with actual medicine. This presents a confusing situation for sick and desperate customers, some of whom may not be able to afford real medicine or medical treatment. Sometimes that confusion can be exceptionally dangerous, as with homeopathic “remedies” for life-threatening conditions such as asthma. For this reason CFI has petitioned the FDA to start regulating homeopathic products as they do all food and drugs.

Even away from the medicine aisle, one can find racks upon racks of herbal remedies, dietary supplements, and various vitamin concoctions.

In Nature

The demand for alternative medicines, and the production of them, has led to the senseless slaughter of animals worldwide, including some of the world’s most endangered, whose body parts serve as ingredients. Elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, various shark species, and others have seen their populations decimated, in part due to poaching to feed the international demand for unproven and disproven remedies.


This section will be updated as news develops on this topic.