BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS September 26, 2008 CONTRACEPTIVES ARE HARMFUL TO WOMEN’S HEALTH Those who are advocating the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippine Congress are guilty of gross misrepresentation. They maintain that the bill is intended to promote the health of women. That claim could not be farther from the truth. There are abundant scientific and medical evidences that the so-called "modern methods" of family planning, such as birth control pills, intrauterine device (IUD), barrier methods (condoms/diaphragms) and ligation can have harmful effects to millions of women all over the world. In a most enlightening paper by Dr. Angelita Miguel-Aguirre, M.D., Fellow and Diplomate of the Philippine College of Physicians and Chairperson of the Committee on Ethics of the Makati Medical Society, the ill effects of contraceptives on women's health are very well documented. Unfortunately, these harmful consequences of contraceptives are hidden by the promoters of birth control, especially from unsuspecting poor women who have no access to the information that experts like Dr. Miguel-Aguirre provide to the public. Even worse, there are advertising and marketing campaigns funded by the anti-life people (such as those appearing in some local T.V. channels) that present contraceptives as "essential medicines," peddling outright lies that pills and contraceptives can cure cervical cancer and other female diseases. What does an expert like Dr. Miguel-Aguirre say about birth control pills? According to her, on top of numerous studies showing the carcinogenic properties of birth control pills since the development of the synthetic estrogens in 1938 by Sir Edward Charles Dodds, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced last July 29, 2005 that "after a thorough review of the published scientific 2 literature, it has concluded that combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (and combined estrogen-progestogen menopausal therapy) are carcinogenic to humans (Group 1 category, which is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans). Prior to this announcement, a respected journalist from Columbia University, Barbara Seaman, after years of research, published several books exposing estrogen's detrimental effect on the health of women. Notable among these books are the "The Doctor's Case Against the Pill," and "The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women. Exploding the Estrogen Myth." Barbara Seaman is a co-founder of the National Women's Health Network, a women's advocacy group in Washington D.C., that refused money from the drug industry as part of its charter. There are numerous adverse effects of the pill on women that have been equally well documented. They are breast cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, premature hypertension and coronary artery disease leading to heart attacks and strokes, thromboembolism/pulmonary embolism. Other negative side effects are decreased libido, infertility, leg cramps, gallstone formation, nausea, and bloatedness. Although some women may notice improvement in their complexion, others may develop acne by using the pill. It is claimed to reduce the risk for ovarian cancer. But evidently this is outweighed by its numerous risks for more common forms of cancer. Unfortunately, the side effects most frequently communicated to potential users, in order to qualify for "informed choice," are simple headaches, increased weight or increased appetite or other minor ailments. The top three causes of mortality in the Philippines are 1) diseases of the heart; 2) diseases of the vascular system; and 3) malignant neoplasm. With the aggressive promotion of the contraceptive pill, many of the casualties of these diseases will be women who will be suffering from the adverse effects of synthetic estrogen as is already happening in developed countries. It must be pointed out that next to lung cancer, breast cancer is the most common 3 cause of malignancy in our country and only 5 to 10% of those women with breast cancer have a genetic predisposition. There are studies in Indonesia (Bustan Contraception 1993) which show that the risk of breast cancer among Indonesian women is 210% for those who started taking the pill at age 22 and below; 70% risk for women age 22 to 26 and 60% risk for women age 27 and up. Another contraceptive being promoted by the population control advocates is the intrauterine device or the IUD. The IUD is not a contraceptive. As categorically stated by Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the late expert on Fundamental Genetics of the University of Paris, "the IUD acts primarily by preventing the embryo from implanting--not by preventing conception. It is, therefore, an abortifacient, not a contraceptive." A textbook entitled "The Reproductive System, Principle of Anatomy and Physiology," by Tortora and Grabowski provides a succinct description of the IUD: "IUDs cause changes in the uterine lining that prevent implantation of the fertilized ovum." The effect is known to both the promoters and manufacturers of IUDs. Because of the high incidence of litigations resulting from the adverse effects suffered by women in the U.S., prospective users have to sign a seven-page document before the device is inserted in the U.S. Because an abortion actually takes place here, there is also the psychological trauma that can cause long-term depression symptoms among women who have undergone abortion. The barrier methods--condoms and diaphragms--have the highest rate of failures among birth control methods, varying from 4 to 30 percent, depending on the age group surveyed. These are the causes of most of the so-called unwanted pregnancies which generally end up with abortion. These devices also contribute to increased incidence of sexually transmitted disease/infection (STD/STI). The widespread use of condoms in Thailand ironically has led to an explosion in the number of women infected with HIV. Because condoms encourage promiscuity, they also indirectly contribute to the spread of the Human Papiloma virus 4 (HPV), which is the major cause of cervical cancer. Barrier methods are ineffective since shedding occurs from widespread areas of the perineum. HPV causes warts anywhere on the skin and mucous membranes. The adverse effect of tubal ligation are also well known. They are hemorrhage and bleeding; increased risk of heavy menses in the long term; increased future gynecological rate of surgery, including hysterectomy; adverse anesthesia effects; and post-tubal ligation syndrome. There are so many health risks that accompany the use of artificial contraceptives or abortifacient devices that they far outweigh the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth to a woman's health. It would be wiser for the Government to invest instead in basic obstetric care and emergency obstetric care equipment and services and provide skilled medical staff to the childbirth centers. The bill, if it is at all to be considered for final legislation, should focus on how to make available to all poor women the basic obstetric care and emergency obstetric care that can significantly cut down the number of women dying in childbirth. The focus should be on maternal health, not on preventing maternity. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.