Obria is a Christian medical chain that doesn’t provide any kind of birth control, such as condoms and pills. Its doctors and nurses inform patients when they’re most fertile and teach them the art of restraint.
The allowance of Obria into the Title X program has many reproductive healthcare providers fuming. Title X is designed to help indigent women from getting pregnant, but clinics also get the money to test, treat and keep the spread of STDs down, including HIV. However, the Christian medial clinic relies on abstinence for its prevention method.
Obria, while filing out for federal funding, would follow the CDCs recommendations and abide by medical standards for STD prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states when condoms are used correctly, they are very effective in slowing down the spread of STDs – something that many medical associations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have concluded as well.
However, Obria is not offering condoms to the public, nor advocating for them. Rather, the staff is going to rely on abstinence for its STD and pregnancy prevention, teaching patients about the benefit of safe sex and what the high-risk behaviors are.
During a 2018 interview, Obria Group CEO Kathleen Bravo said decreasing sexual risk means fewer women become sick with STDs, pregnant or get cancer. She said it’s important to teach them not to go down the path.
Sexual health educators whose job it is to reduce the spread of STDs and reverse the four consecutive years of record levels of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia feel Obria’s method of abstinence-only and not offering condoms is irresponsible.
Radiant Health Centers Executive Director Philip Yaeger said it’s hard to imagine a doctor or other medical care facility to test for STIs, have it come back one way or the other and not tell the patient about how effective condoms are in protecting themselves.
For four years, from 2013 to 2017, gonorrhea cases jumped by 67 percent with syphilis seeing a 76 percent rise. In 2017, there were 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. There are also 30,000 new cases of HIV every year.
If any of the STDs are left untreated, it can cause cervical cancer, infertility, dementia and blindness. Pregnant women can also spread syphilis to their babies, which could cause stillbirths or lead to several health problems in the baby.
Obria’s headquarters is in Orange County, where the number of STDs for the four year period hit astronomical heights – syphilis 99 percent, chlamydia 65 percent and gonorrhea 129 percent.
Radiant Health Centers health educators are trying to combat the problem by handing out condoms and lubricant while in nightclub parking lots on the weekend.
Radiants’ Director of Health Education and Prevention Tiffany Hendrix goes from high school to high school, teaching them about sex health and how to use condoms properly. She said it doesn’t matter what one’s beliefs are; the job is to educate others, so the decision they make is based on sound advice – similar to diabetes and other health problems.
However, conservative Christians are fueling the rise in U.S. religion-based medical care say their beliefs give them the power to determine what services they will offer in their clinics and hospitals even if it involves STDs.
Teresa Notare, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's assistant director of its Natural Family Planning Program, said STDs are a sign from God that a person should no longer be having sex. She said using physical barriers such as condoms hinders the ovaries’ natural design.
These groups have praised President Donald Trump as a champion for delivering their agenda.
The administration has been working hard to appoint judges who are against abortion rights and defunct Planned Parenthood, reverse the employer mandate of including birth control in their insurance coverage and teaching about abstinence in schools.
With the loosening of the requirements that clinics offer a full range of birth control options, like condoms, the Trump administration has given the green light for makeshift anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to become actual medical clinics.
For the next three years, Obria could get $5.1 million for its California clinics, but Bravo sees a bigger picture for the clinic, which has 38 clinics in six states. Bravo would like to see Obria become bigger than Planned Parenthood, and is in the process of launching a $240 million campaign to open additional sites.
Bravo said the key is to let women know about the services they offer in their city.
Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics Director David Magnus said Obria and other clinics like it are pulling a bait and switch because they’re not providing patients with full advice who could catch an STD.
Obria’s website claims to use holistic advice and give people the support and answers they need about their sexual health. Obria makes no mention of its religious affiliation but does talk about how birth control pills, IUDs, condoms and patches fail and the complications of them.
Magnus said them pretending to offer advice is misleading and a real problem for the public.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD