Blog Post

Pill users risk more than just physical health

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer

(Jan. 29, 2008) Reports about a new British study linking long-term use of oral contraceptives with reduced risks of ovarian cancer may be giving women a false sense of security.

The study, conducted by Valerie Beral, et al, director of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, analyzed data from 45 studies involving 23,257 women with ovarian cancer, and 87,303 women without ovarian cancer. Researchers found that women taking the pill for 15 years cut their chances of developing ovarian cancer in half, with the risk remaining low more than 30 years later.

Although any drop in cancer rates is good news, when the means to this end is as problematic as the birth control pill, a fuller context must be presented in order to protect women from thinking the pill might actually be good for them.

Health risks are real For instance, most news reports minimized the other cancer risks associated with the pill. A typical example is Maria Cheng of the Associated Press who explained it this way: “While the pill protects against ovarian cancer, it slightly increases the chances of breast and cervical cancer leading to mesothelioma. But those risks disappear after women stop taking oral contraceptives. And the pill also provides long-term protection against endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the uterus.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, it’s not quite that simple. Researchers are still trying to learn how the hormones in oral contraceptives affect cancer risks in women. To date, some studies show an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking oral contraceptives, while other studies do not. Some studies have shown a decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers in women who take the pill, while other studies shown an increase in liver and cervical cancers.

There is also the risk of blood clots, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease associated with pill use, particularly in women who smoke or are over the age of 35. Pill use also affects cholesterol levels and a recent Belgium study found a link between long term pill users and the build up of artery-clogging plague in women, even after they stopped taking the pill.

But many of these health risks are enhanced by the other risks associated with the use of birth control pills, the ones nobody wants to talk about, especially not in the secular media.

Behavior risks even greater A perfect example is the increased incidence of cervical cancer in women who take the pill. The majority of these cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Contracting a sexually transmitted diseases is often associated with promiscuity, and promiscuity is associated with the use of birth control pills.

“For years, I thought the pill would not lead to promiscuity but I’ve changed my mind,” said one of the inventors of the birth control pill, Dr. Robert Kistner of Harvard. “I think it probably has.”

Nobel-prize winning economist and professor at the University of California at Berkley, George Akerlof, agrees. He cites the dramatic increase in illegitimacy from 1965 to 1990 - from 24 to 64 percent among African-Americans and from three to 18 percent among whites - as proof that the original calculations about contraception were off - by a landslide.

HE found that instead of freeing women, birth control obligated them to have sex before marriage in order to compete in the “relationship market” and gave men an excuse not to marry, even after fathering a child. Consequently, the percent of young men (25 to 34) who were married in the U.S. dropped from 66 percent in 1968 to only 40 percent on 1993.

This led Akerlof to conclude that the contraceptive revolution played a key, albeit indirect, role in the dramatic increase in social pathology and poverty this country witnessed in the 1970's; and it did so by fostering sexual license, poisoning the relations between men and women, and weakening the marital vow.

The Church has it right But scientists are not the only people who associate increased promiscuity, and all of its attendant woes, with the use of birth control pills. The Church has long taught that using artificial contraception, which ultimately separates the marital act from its purpose of human reproduction, which can lead to all kinds of social problems.

A recent rendition of these problems was penned by Pope Paul VI in 1968 in the landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae. In it, the Pope predicted that the widespread use of birth control would have disastrous consequences on society, with those negative effects including the impoverishment of women, marginalization of men, soaring numbers of abortions and out-ofwedlock births, and a general worsening of relationships between men and women.

The evidence proves him right. Duquesne University’s Family Institute found that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce grew from 25 percent in 1960 to 48 percent in 2006.

During the same time period, the Census Bureau reports a 600 percent increase in unwed childbearing and a 1200 percent increase in the number of people cohabitating during the same time period - from 439,000 to 5.08 million.

As a result of this rampaging promiscuity, the Centers for Disease Control now report more than 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) each year in the United States.

Although the availability of contraception was supposed to cut down on the number abortions, The Alan Guttmacher Institute reported in 2006 that more than half (54 percent) of all women having abortions used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. This might explain why the annual abortion rate jumped from approximately 200,000 a year in 1969 to more than 1.4 million a year by 2003 in spite of the widespread distribution of birth control. But, as Pope Paul points out, there are even more insidious risks to consider. “Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Sadly, the statistics prove him right. The United Nations Study on the Status of Women, published in 2000, found that somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds.

The National Violence Against Women Survey from the same year found that 64 percent of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, boyfriend or date.

Dr. Mary Ann Layden, Director of Education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania reports that the level of sexual violence occurring in our society is at epidemic proportions. “We are experiencing a sexual holocaust. One in 8 women are raped, 50 percent of females will be sexually harassed on their jobs. By the time a female in this country is 18 years old, 38 percent have been sexually molested. We are the most sexually violent nation on earth.”

Women need facts In other words, if you’re on the pill, you’re at increased risk for a lot more than just cancer. You’re also at risk for the heartache of broken relationships, abortion, and sexual abuse, and all the other ills associated with a social experiment with contraception that has gone seriously awry.

By warning people away from the use of contraception, the Church has done a great service to women and society in general. “She is preaching only what nature and the gospel preach,” writes Professor Janet Smith, Ph.D., a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, in “Humanae

Vitae: A Challenge to Love.” “By now we should have learned – the hard way – that to defy and overindulge our sexual nature, to go against the laws of nature and God, is to inflict terrible damage on ourselves as individuals and our society as a whole.”

When reporting on the risks of birth control pills, women need to hear the whole story, not just the politically correct part.

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How has the birth control pill affected the relationship between men and women? See “Dating, Mating and Contraception” by Dr. Janet Smith at