Wednesday, August 03, 2005

wonder pill?

The Pill (aka oral contraceptive pill) was one giant leap forward for feminism. Finally a woman could gain effective control over reproductive tyranny. Sex without fear of pregnancy. Sex without relying on a man to use a condom (or have a fit about using one and rip it off mid fuck). Sex, sex, sex..without babies. The OCP was a huge gift delivered just in time for the free love of the 60’s and the emergence of feminism.

Like all wonder drugs, it has had it’s drawbacks. The first generation had the unfortunate side effect of forming often fatal bloodclots. As the drug was trialed largely on poor, Hispanic women, the manufacturers stayed in denial about this until it started to kill a few uppity white women. In fact it took about 9 years (and scores of deaths) before the pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies accepted the link.

With free sex and multiple partners came an increase in STI’s and unlike condoms didn’t protect women from such diseases as herpes, warts and chlamydia. This later and other such causes of often silent pevic inflammatory diseases ironically increased a woman’s chances of becoming permanently infertile. This was in the halcyon days of the 70’s before the spectre of HIV. Yet surprisingly even now many young women misguidedly believe the pill will protect them from such diseases.

These days a wide cross section of non fatal side effects are an accepted part of taking the pill. These include depression, weight gain, loss of libido, hirsuitism (getting hairier in all the wrong places), headaches and even nausea. Yet strangely the pill continues to be the preferred contraceptive offered by most family planning doctors.

And now this. The World Health Organisation has upgraded the cancer status of the OCP from "possibly carcinogenic to humans" to "carcinogenic to humans". For years there has been blatent spin from the pharmaceutical companies, playing with figures, trying to dispute any connection with OCP taking and an increased risk of a number of cancers. Just like the fallout over HRT, worthy experts have been wheeled out to blatantly deny any health risks connected with these hormones. Déjà vu, it’s like it is the 60’s all over again, with those pesky Haitian and Costa Rican women keeling from strokes and heart attacks. The companies are very unhappy with their precious pill being plonked into the same cancer risk category as asbestos and tobacco smoking.

While the Pill can proudly claim a special place in the history of the liberation of women (and men!), it’s time to put this baby to bed. The only problem is that the millions of women who pop this contraceptive each day are absolute money spinners for pharmaceutical companies and these corporations have a lot of resources to keep pumping out propaganda to negate the concerns. So who are you going to believe – the World Health Organisation or a mouthpiece for the corporations?


Blogger Aleks - Anarcho-Syndicalist said...

Corporations lying? Never. I won't believe it.

10:45 am  

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