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BERNARDO M.

VILLEGAS
September 26, 2008

CONTRACEPTIVES ARE HARMFUL TO WOMENS 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
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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
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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
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(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 bvillegas@uap.edu.ph.