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

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend