Angélica Escobar

Assistant Opinions Editor 

I’ve been on birth control for a couple of months now, and let me tell you it’s been the worst couple of months of my life. Please do not tell me “if you hate it so much, just get off of it” when I don’t have the option of getting off it for medical reasons. So, I either get off it resulting in not getting my period for months and risk infertility, or I suffer through all the side effects along with a consistent fake period. The amount of side effects that come with the birth control pill is enormous: spotting between periods, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches/migraines, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido, change in vaginal discharge, eye changes, blood clots, high blood pressure and so much more. The list is so long, I could probably take out the huge sheet of side effects from the packet and use it as a blanket because of how big it is! This is absolutely ridiculous! I’m not saying birth control is bad. I’m saying that the amount of side effects that come with it is horrendous, why do we have to live with these?

In 1960, the FDA approved the first birth control pill “Enovoid” which was manufactured by Searle (two men). Many women liked the pill during this time because it was an easier method of birth control that was close to being 100 percent effective. It is the most popular form of birth control even today in 2021 as over nine million women use it in the United States alone. But, the history behind the pill is horrifying. The men who developed the pill were Gregory G. Pincus and John C. Rock, and these men did not create the pill with women in mind; instead, they created it so men could have sexual freedom without any worries and to answer scientific questions surrounding fertility. Pincus was against the sexual freedom of women; in an interview in 1967, he stated, “I am against women having sexual freedom… But I hasten to add that I am also opposed to sexual freedom among men.” This shows that the pill wasn’t created in order to help women with their reproductive health, which is infuriating. For decades people have been taking a pill that didn’t even consider them, and not only that this pill has been mass-produced by multiple pharmaceutical companies since it came out in the ’60s. The most horrifying part of the pill is the way they tested it… 

Rock at the time of the creation of the pill was a gynecologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, where he revived the Massachusetts General Hospital’s infertility clinic. But, in 1924 he created his own infertility clinic at the Free Hospital for Women. This was a teaching hospital, so it gave Rock the upper hand when it came to getting access to patients there since it was Harvard affiliated. This is where he found out that he could create synthetic hormones that replicated progesterone and estrogen. So Rock and Pincus started a fertility trial. Rock did not inform any of the women that the hormones would stop them from getting pregnant because they were under the impression that it was a fertility treatment trial. The side effects of this pill were so horrible that women decided to drop out of the trial (bloating, fatal blood clots, and mood changes). These are all side effects that women still face with the pill today, so nothing really has changed because this pill was made with men in mind!

Without any women wanting to participate, Rock and Pincus were having trouble getting participants to be in the trial. This is not surprising, but it made them look towards Puerto Rico. During this time the country was very worried about overpopulation and, because of the eugenics movement, birth control was not banned for single women like it was in the U.S. along with abortion. To me, this sounds very racist because the U.S. owns Puerto Rico, so this tells me that they didn’t want any more people of color born. Not to mention, many Puerto Rican women were sterilized without their consent. This was known as “La Operacion” in the 50s and 60s. What maddens me the most is that two White women, Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick, funded this trial knowing what it was doing to women, especially women of color. How could women do this to other women? Why is White women’s sexual freedom more important than women of color and the disabled?

The two men who wanted this trial believed that Puerto Ricans were the population that needed it the most because they are “uneducated”. Things didn’t go as planned, as many women dropped out of the trial because of the side effects once again, so then Pincus and Rock found women they could force into it, both in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. They chose people from mental hospitals, and women in medical school in Puerto Rico were forced into the trial, or else they would risk expulsion. These women were never told what this trial was for, and what it would do to their bodies, they were just told to “shut up and take their medicine, and submit to frequent, invasive medical exams.” Honestly, this isn’t surprising because using women of color, and those who have disabilities, are the most vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Birth control wasn’t made to help women from becoming pregnant, it was made to advance science, and men’s sexual lives. But, it was at the risk of the lives of many women. 

 The Puerto Rico Family Planning Association saw this problem and came up with an idea: to go door to door in the Puerto Rico Housing Projects to explain to women what the pill does. After this, many women signed up and started taking the pill. But, they didn’t know the pill was a part of a clinical trial and was experimental. This again is extremely wrong as these two White American men are taking advantage of poor Puerto Rican women for the sake of men’s pleasure and science. When the study was done it was concluded by a medical doctor for the Puerto Rico Family Planning Association, Dr. Rice-Wray, that the pill was 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, but it caused lots of side effects due to the number of hormones they put in it. Three women died during this trial, and the exact causes are unknown because there was never an autopsy.

In my opinion, these women did die due to the pill trial because the dosage of hormones inside the pill was about 100 milligrams, which is too much (100,000 micrograms) to bear as it comes with so many side effects. This didn’t stop those greedy men, Pincus and Rock, from releasing their version of the pill, which by the way caused illness in a fifth of women in the trial as this one had 10 times the amount of hormones needed in order to prevent pregnancy. This is absolutely ridiculous! Currently today the average micrograms in the lower dosage pills have 10 to 35 of estrogen, but higher doses have 50 micrograms because they are combination pills with progesterone and estrogen. The reason so many people and I have to bear the pain of the pill is because of these men who didn’t really care about the side effects it was causing women! The only time they semi-scared was when women started dropping out of their trials, and even then they were still assholes because they took advantage of women who weren’t allowed to speak up. 

My birth control packet has at least a hundred words or more explaining all of the possible side effects that come with the pill, I hate it. But, I’m grateful we get a list of side effects, unlike the Puerto Rican and disabled women who lived through the trials that put them through so much pain, as they didn’t know anything about the pill other than it stops pregnancy. From the start, I knew that depression was a possible side effect of the pill, but for the sake of my uterus, I take it anyways. Almost a year later, I’m now dealing with depression, and all the many other side effects that come with, and on antidepressants. According to JAMA Psychiatry’s study, there is a link between hormonal birth control and depression. They found that women who had been on birth control were prescribed antidepressants as well. The study shows that you have a higher risk of being on antidepressants if you’re on birth control. 80 percent of teens are at risk for depression when taking the pill, according to Holly Grigg-Spall. This is scary because many women like me are given the pill for medical reasons, even before they start being sexually active. I believe it’s because doctors downplay the pain women face so they just prescribe them birth control to deal with whatever problem they have no matter the side effects. 

Overall, birth control needs to be regulated and evaluated because these side effects are outrageous and stem from two white men and women with an agenda that didn’t involve women’s health or the health of women of color. Men’s birth control was stopped because they couldn’t handle the number of side effects that came with it: acne, headaches, mild erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, tiredness, weight gain. But, today we women face a lot of pain and are told to deal with it. That isn’t fair. The amount of period cramps and soreness is going to prevent me from doing things I’m able to do daily. But, I have to do these things because society doesn’t take periods seriously. We still have the pink tax in 2021, menstrual products aren’t free, and getting proper sexual education is a privilege, not a right. There are so many things that need to change when it comes to reproductive health, and this is a way to start. REGULATE BIRTH CONTROL AND CREATE MALE BIRTH CONTROL. 

Featured Image:  Courtesy of Nick Youngson/Alpha Stock Images 

Author

  • Angélica Escobar

    Angélica Escobar has just started working for the Quaker Campus for the 2020-21 academic year, and is currently a copy writer. She enjoys writing about politics, opinions, and arts and culture.

Angélica Escobar has just started working for the Quaker Campus for the 2020-21 academic year, and is currently a copy writer. She enjoys writing about politics, opinions, and arts and culture.

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