Russell and Duenes

Guess Who Butters Time Magazine’s Bread!

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I read last week’s Time Magazine cover story on the 50th anniversary of The Pill with great interest. But what I found most interesting is Time’s recounting of contraception and The Pill. The article informs the reader that in 1954, “John Rock…in collaboration with [Gregory] Pincus, conducts the first human Pill trial on 50 women in Massachusetts.” It then skips to 1960 and the FDA’s approval of The Pill. Conveniently, it doesn’t tell you that women died during the early trials of The Pill, nor does it let you in on any of the continued health risks posed by it. Janet Smith, in her informative piece, Contraception: Why Not? writes,

There’s a wonderful book out by Dr. Ellen Grant called The Bitter Pill. She was very much in on distributing contraceptives in the 60’s in London, but she saw woman after woman coming in with different pathologies that she found were pill-related high blood pressure, blood clots, cysts in the breast, all sorts of things. So, she said, “I’m not going to prescribe these anymore.” She looked into this and she discovered, that when they were first testing for the pill, they were trying to find a male contraceptive and a female contraceptive pill. And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill. You might notice that there is no such thing in the first study group of females. Three females died and they just readjusted the dosage. Now, I don’t know what that tells you, but it tells me that there’s something sinister going on here. Women are still dying from the pill. If you look at the insert in any set of pills, you can get this from a pharmacist if you can’t find it elsewhere, it says such things as the pill will cause blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, greater increase of some kinds of cancer, infertility. Now, these are very small percentages where this happens, but there are some sixteen million women in the United States on the pill. Sixteen million. And even a very small percentage is still a very large number of women.

Or this little tidbit in about Barbara Seaman, an early feminist who wrote The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill:

“[The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill] shook up the medical establishment. It put Seaman in the 1970s pantheon of feminist stars, though some accused the then-married Seaman of being blinded by her middle-class lifestyle to the point that she could not understand the issues faced by poor women. But they didn’t argue with her book, which showed the Pill posed risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It also showed that very poor women in Puerto Rico were used in the Pill’s early testing at very high doses, without thorough study. Several died of apparent heart attacks, with little medical attention and no autopsies. The book led to Congressional hearings in 1970. The U.S. Senate barred women harmed by the Pill from testifying. Protesting women interrupted the hearings, an event known as the Boston Tea Party of the women’s movement. After the hearings, birth control pills carried warning labels and for the first time the Federal Drug Administration allowed input from patients as part of the drug’s regulation.

Time Magazine leaving out such important details? No! I wonder why?



Written by Michael Duenes

May 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm

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