Newt's Vision Suffers From Myopia

Newt Gingrich's plan to transform health care, which you reported on in "Vision of Newt" [July 13], is a splendid example of muddled thinking.

He proposes to fix the woefully ineffective American health care system by adding some high-tech improvements to doctor's offices and hospitals, and he all but ignores the most serious problem, the lack of access to health care on the part of 44 million Americans.

Contrary to Gingrich's view, providing coverage to those millions of Americans is not simply a mop-up operation.

Donald W. MacCorquodale, MD

Washington

The Rhythm Method: Old Song, New Lyrics

"A New Bead on Birth Control" [July 13] has a fundamental flaw: It claims that the rhythm method can be reliably used to prevent pregnancy. The only rational use for the rhythm method is to cause pregnancy.

I am a healthy woman with a scientific background who experienced secondary infertility. I used the rhythm method in connection with our (successful) efforts to obtain two sons.

Because my husband travels, I researched the rhythm method and tracked the physical signs of my fertility against a calendar, with confirmation using a fertility test. No two consecutive cycles were exactly the same length. Further, according to what I read, most women do not have cycles that are persistently the same over a year. That is the reason why the better textbooks all teach the various ways to detect the fertile portion (one to three days) of a woman's cycle.

The necklace is nothing but a calendar that recommends 12 days to abstain. That is an additional six days over earlier recommendations. One has to wonder if both time frames were picked to avoid telling people to abstain "a week" or "two weeks."

The rhythm method is being pushed as a method for preventing pregnancy by people who do not care whether it works or not.

Valerie E. Alexander

Columbia

Given the international perspective of many Washington Post readers, you might be interested to know that the Institute for Reproductive Health, whose work was featured in "A New Bead on Birth Control," is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Much of the institute's work focuses on developing countries where there is a significant need for a low-cost, effective, easy-to-use method of family planning. The institute is working with programs in more than 20 countries, where local organizations are providing the Standard Days Method of family planning using CycleBeads.

Victoria Jennings, PhD

Director, Institute for Reproductive Health

Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Georgetown University Medical Center

Washington