Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lies and Lies and Lies

I managed to catch a few minutes of the news last night and after seeing a few minutes of angry mom's decrying the FDA's failure to outlaw BPA in plastics, the newscasters concluding words on the story captured my attention.  BPA, he explained, has properties similar to estrogen, which is linked to an increase in breast cancer and heart disease.
What?!?!  I thought, shocked by the admission that the reporter had just made.

Estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer and heart disease  (I was pretty shocked that he said those words, since logically the next step is just a hop, skip and a jump away and I can't have been the only one who made it).  Birth control pills are (usually) estrogen pills.  Yet they're still touted as an absolute must for women of all ages, prescribed for young teenagers and then on through the decades as something that's necessary and virtually risk free.

Most women who've had a baby have experienced the post-baby pill push that is common with most mainstream doctors. They seem to think that if you're not taking the pill your crazy.  And if you're not taking the pill and you just had a baby you're really crazy.  

After I watched the BPA story, I couldn't help but think of an article I read a few days ago.  A rather liberal friend posted a link the other day with a title about "the lies Republicans tell women."  As I began to read I found the tone of the piece insulting almost instantly.  The author clearly thought that I was too stupid to think for myself, and needed to be spoon fed the facts, bite by bite.

These "facts" were apparently supposed to be lies that conservatives tell women.  As a "conservative," who does a lot of reading, I expected to be met with "facts" that I'd actually heard of before.  After all, I read quite a bit of conservative news and you'd think that I would have been indoctrinated quite thoroughly if there was a great right wing conspiracy to convince me to spout certain rhetoric. I knew I'd disagree with the author's take on these "lies" but I at least expected to have run across them somewhere in the past decade of watching politics, first as a liberal and then as a conservative.

The #1 lie let me know, however, that we were headed in a strange direction.  The first "lie" conservatives tell women is that birth control pills cause prostate cancer.

I paused in reading and reread the heading of the section several times.  A long line of questions ran through my mind:  Prostate cancer?  Um.  Yeah.  Women don't get prostate cancer.  Who gets it?  Their partners?  Is anyone stupid enough to believe... Finally I continued reading and found out that it was (claimed) to be more common in future offspring.

To be honest I have no idea if there's a link between that particular cancer and estrogen pills, because I'd never even heard that claim and so I've never looked into it.  And frankly, I suspect that if there was a link, something would be done, because it seems like anytime contraceptives have threatened men's health in the least, something is almost instantly done (if you don't know what I'm talking about you might want to read up on the early days of the pill).  However, I do know that it's been named a Class 1 Carcinogen, in the same class as cigarettes and asbestos.  I know that women who've taken it are far more likely to develop cervical cancer and breast cancer.  Does it also need to cause prostate cancer for it to suddenly get our attention?  Are breast cancer and cervical cancer now "bad" enough to cause us to worry about what we're putting into our bodies?

I'll admit, when that idiot doctor last year said that I had to take the pill for at least two months I felt slightly ill (more ill than I was already feeling from my not-psycho-somatic but actually there retained "debris").  I felt as if he'd just told me that I needed to smoke a pack a day to recover from my miscarriage.  I felt like I was popping poison pills for a week until I found my NFP OB.  And when my new OB asked for the dosage and said that there was no way that amount would have worked for it's intended purpose, and wouldn't have been anything other than a placebo... well...  if I'd been in his office I probably would have thrown something.

I agree with the author of that silly little article on one count though.  I do wish that people would stop lying to women about our bodies.  And the first lie that I wish that they would stop telling us is that estrogen pills are harmless.  Some women may need to take them for medical problems when other options have been exhausted and the benefits outweigh the risks, but let's not pretend that there are no risks at all.  Because right now, that's the biggest lie of all and a whole lot of people have bought into it and, as statistics show us, will later pay the tragically high price.

I honestly think that that's the #1 lie that women are told, day in and day out in our country.  That's the myth that needs to be erased so that women, young and old, know what they're getting into when they start popping those little pills day after day.  And maybe once we admit that the pill isn't harmless, we can begin to admit that consequence free sex is a myth too, and those two very popular lies can share a funeral pyre as they go down in a fiery blaze.


  1. Cam, you have such a way with words. I always look forward to reading your socio-political thoughts. You seem to express what I feel better than I ever could!

  2. Excellent post, Cam!

    You've highlighted two things I want to deal with here, the first being the media's tendency to section off into Right and Left wings, along with politics. The problem here is that the right and the left hate each other, for no reason other than being right or left. As with most things, there's more agreement than disagreement to be had, but there's no money in cordial discussions.

    The other is the thing regarding contraceptives, men's health, and so on and so forth. It should be expected that the estrogen-based ABC pills cause disease. Throwing your body out of whack by altering a hormone level (especially such a KEY hormone) is ASKING to get sick. I'm not quite sure why people keep clinging to the idea that it's going to be a wonder drug. (Sorts out your cycle, removes the risk of pregancy... I've even heard people my own age say that it provides protection from STIs as well as a condom would, which is absolute rubbish.) It actually reminds me of the way the medical community was treating heroin in the early years of production. It was the new morphine, suitable for everyone... whoops. Called that put a little early, I think.

    If there IS a link between the Pill and Cancer, I can't see that stopping production (given the suggestions of links between abortion and cancer) or even slowing down the machine. But it would at least give the anti-birth-control crowd a little leverage in convincing people to rethink.

  3. You know, Cam, it's funny how often I find myself thinking "I don't agree with Cam's religion or politics, but man is she right!" Just goes to show that people can come together over almost anything regardless of background. I'm a liberal atheist, but I refuse to take hormonal forms of birth control for the same reasons you don't like them. How do we know? How do we know what the long term effects are? Aren't our bodies supposed to regulate their own hormones instead of us adding a bunch of other crap to the mix? I can see using them in cases of women who don't produce enough of the right kinds of hormones, but you're right, every woman from 13 to 50 has these things pushed on her by the medical community, the pharmaceutical companies, and often her peers.

    I'm not opposed to birth control morally (is that the right word), as you are, but I prefer a barrier method. I'm a married woman, and while we don't want more children right now, I'm willing to accept that there is a failure rate. I am not willing to screw around with my future fertility or to risk my long term health.

  4. Great post! You touched on so many things that drive me crazy about ABC!

    I probably fall into the category of "women who are supposed to use ABC for medical reasons and to regulate hormones etc." I was once even told by a doctor that "women like me need to always be on ABC when we don't want to get pregnant and will always need fertility drugs when we do." YES, an actual OBGYN once said that to me. I cried. And I took the pills. And I cried. And forgive me, but that is pretty much total crap. (And probably worthy of a blog post, not a comment)
    I honestly don't believe that there is ever a medical reason to use ABC. It doesn't regulate your hormones. It masks the symptoms of what is actually going on in your body and then makes it more difficult for your body to pick up and start proper hormone production of its own after you stop (because you were being supplied with them synthetically before). I really feel that any doctor who says that you "need" them for PCOS or any other hormonal disorder is actually saying "I can't council/treat you holistically, and I'm not a nutritionist. It's too hard to get a real referral/diagnosis for endocrine disorders. Therefore, we will mask your symptoms and just do everything with forced chemicals so that we don't really have to try to deal with it.

    When my doctor asked me about the form of BC I was planning on using after Sprout was born, I laughed at him because I was surprised he asked (It took me over 4 years to obtain a sustainable pregnancy and he was my doctor for most of it). When he looked at me, raised eyebrows, I said "God". Still looking at me, I tried to be a little more serious so I said "Fertility Awareness". He still didn't look like he knew what to write down so I gave up and said "NFP". Nodding, he scribbled it on his little tablet while I said "Honestly DR. C, it's the getting pregnant that is more work for me, not getting pregnant has never been an issue." He finally got it and laughed a little with me.


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