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By Mary Margaret Olohan, Evie Magazine, Feb 20, 2019
We’ve been told that birth control is one of the great inventions of our time and that we would be foolish not to take it. The truth is, we’ve been lied to.
Birth control is sexist towards women – and it is incredibly damaging to our bodies. This is pretty ironic, considering we are always told that birth control is empowering, right? Yet even the history of birth control reveals an utter lack of respect for the dignity of women.
Women were the Guinea Pigs
The creation of the pill was sketchy – to say the least. Prompted by Margaret Sanger, millionaire Katherine McCormick funded studies for Harvard Professor Gregory E. Pincus; studies focused on ways in which women could prevent pregnancy without a man knowing.
After years of experimenting various pills on rabbits, Pincus conducted birth control experiments which he claimed were “fertility studies” by exploiting helpless patients in a Massachusetts mental institution. He did not tell his patients what pills he would give them – they were expected to take the pills and suffer the consequences while he documented the results. Men were unable to stand the procedures, as Pincus’ experiments caused testicle shrinking and “castration anxiety.” So Pincus decided to focus in on women – despite the fact that women also had horrible side effects to his pills; blood clotting, bloating, mood swings, etc.
Men were unable to stand the procedures, as Pincus’ experiments caused testicle shrinking and “castration anxiety.”
The Victims of Puerto Rico
As he ran out of women willing to be sliced and diced in his experiments, Pincus focused in on Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory suffered from poverty and overpopulation, and the government was already highly interested in birth control. Pincus recruited female students from the University of Puerto Rico and was extremely angry when more than half of them dropped out due to the violent side effects of the pill. He and his colleagues resorted to forcing students to cooperate – or receive failing grades in their classes.
Photograph of a Puerto Rican seamstress, taken in 1941 by Jack Delano.
The first versions of the pill had almost ten times the amount of hormones needed to prevent pregnancy. But that didn’t stop Pincus’ experimentation on women – experiments that hadn’t even been entirely successful on animals. And let’s not forget that the creators of the pill opted to experiment on women instead of men. Feminists at the time weren’t happy about it. At a Capitol Hill investigation of the pill’s safety (about ten years later), activist Alice Wolfston shouted, “Why isn’t there a pill for men? Why are 10 million women being used as guinea pigs?”
“Why isn’t there a pill for men? Why are 10 million women being used as guinea pigs?”
Women have been Silenced
Noticeably, no women were allowed to speak at this hearing – though it investigated all the negative symptoms of the pill that occurred in women. The sketchy Puerto Rico trials and the mental institution abuses were completely ignored by politicians and doctors alike – as they are to this day!
Noticeably, no women were allowed to speak at this hearing – though it investigated all the negative symptoms of the pill that occurred in women.
This is not unlike the way doctors and health advocates ignore the horrible side effects of birth control, today, in 2019.
Negative Side Effects of Birth Control
Recent studies from the Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre in Australia show that women who take birth control are at a much, much higher risk of depression than women who do not – particularly with adolescents. In fact, these studies reveal that you are twice as likely to be depressed if you are on birth control. Teenagers are at an 80% increased risk of taking antidepressants after taking the pill.
Women who take birth control are at a much, much higher risk of depression than women who do not – particularly with adolescents.
Negative short term side effects of the pill include mood swings, headaches, weight gain, breast tenderness, low libido, and nausea. Long term side effects are more extreme: anxiety, panic attacks, and reproductive issues later on in life.
Even worse – a 2017 Danish study reported in The New York Times found that many types of birth control can be linked to breast cancer. The study reveals that for every 100,000 women on hormonal birth control, there are 68 annual cases of breast cancer. Research also shows that the hormone progestin (which is commonly used in birth control today) raises the risk of breast cancer.
Think that’s all? Think again. A 2017 Time Magazine article reported that “women taking hormonal contraceptives — like birth control pills, the patch, the ring, and hormonal IUDs— have up to triple the risk of suicide as women who never took hormonal birth control.”
“Women taking hormonal contraceptives — like birth control pills, the patch, the ring, and hormonal IUDs have up to triple the risk of suicide as women who never took hormonal birth control.”
So… that’s not just increased risk of cramps, as many birth control options will tell you. It’s not just increased blood flow, irritability, or headaches. The pill brings a multitude of concerns with it, both physically and psychologically. These studies not only should cause us to pause in our casual understanding of birth control. They should help us recognize that it is truly shocking and outrageous that the pill is pushed on women as a tool of empowerment and health.
Studies like these show the importance of women taking their health into their own hands – and not listening to pop culture, politicians, or government-funded health organizations who eagerly push the pill on us. In fact, maybe it’s time for us to examine why we are being offered something so inherently harmful to us.