Contracepting common sense

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

The singularly unfortunate consequence of the recent plagiarism issue against Senator Vicente Sotto III is that it clouded the debate surrounding the RH Bill.

In particular, there is one question indeed that begs for clarity: can contraceptive use considerably endanger women’s health or of newborn babies?

This query prompted both sides of the debate to bring forth their own experts, as well as studies intended to fortify their positions. Commentators who lean towards supporting the RH Bill have had their opportunity and this column would like to present the other side of the medical divide.

So, are there grounds to reasonably believe that contraceptives used by their mothers pose a health risk for newborns?

Yes, if one at least considers recent studies on the matter. Thus, among just some of the dangers alleged are neural tube defects (from a study by the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, China Medical University; 2011), childhood strokes (Christerson, Stromberg, Acta; 2010), and a disturbing hypothesis regarding hypoplastic left heart syndrome and gastroschisis (by Waller, DK., et. al., University of Texas, Houston Health Science Center; 2010).

To women themselves, the dangers arising from contraceptive use are apparently endless: breast cancer, cervical cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks, venous thrombosis (or blood clotting), excessive bleeding, menstruation difficulties, permanent infertility (making even artificial insemination ineffective), migraines, and bone damage.

To verify this, one can easily look up (or Google) studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, US National Cancer Institute, American Association for Cancer Research, and the Mayo Clinic, as well as established publications like the British Medical Journal, Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology, and the Lancet. These studies are all fairly new, released or published from 2002 up.

But don’t just take this man’s word on the matter. Read what Jenn Giroux (longtime commentator on contraception and a registered nurse with decades of experience) has to say:

"Since 1975 there has been a 400% increase in in situ breast cancer among pre-menopausal women under 50 years old. This mirrors the increased use of birth control over these same years.

"A Mayo Clinic study confirms that any young girl or woman who is on hormonal birth control for 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy increases their breast cancer risk by 52%.

"Women who use hormonal birth control for more than five years are four times more likely to develop cervical cancer.

"The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization, classifies all forms of hormonal contraception as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of cancer causing agents also includes cigarettes and asbestos.

"In October 2010 the NY Times carried an article about Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. It quoted the America Medical Association (AMA) as warning women that these post-menopausal drugs which were originally marketed as keeping a women ‘young and sexy’ were discovered instead to be more likely to cause advanced and deadly breast cancer. It stopped short of making one other startling revelation: The only difference between hormone replacement therapy drugs which cause deadly breast cancer and the hormonal birth control drugs (now mandated by the Obama administration) is that the birth control drugs are six times the dosage -- and are the very same drug!"

Contraceptives are seemingly so dangerous to health that the US Federal Drug Agency, within this year alone, had to either oversee the recall of or order increased warnings on two separate oral contraceptive brands due to the possible serious adverse health problems that they could cause. They are of such grave medical concern that numerous doctors in the United States (see the group One More Soul) have already decided not to prescribe contraceptives to their patients.

The irony of it is, with all the health risks attached to contraceptives, its success rate isn’t even that assuring. As the Illinois Right to Life Committee noted: "The effectiveness of contraceptives is not as high as often claimed. Contraceptive drugs are often claimed to be 99% effective. In fact, statistics show closer to a 7% failure rate for contraceptive drugs. The condom has a 15% failure rate. In contrast, NFP (natural family planning) that many critics claim is not effective has a success rate of 98%. Actually, Mother Teresa trained over 20,000 women in India to use NFP with a 0% failure rate."

Bottom line: in international law, we’re taught the "precautionary principle," which essentially says that if there’s a measure suspected of possibly causing harm to the population or environment, then the State should act according to its duty to protect its citizens or territory (unless substantial evidence can later on reasonably or conclusively prove that the possible dangers have been precluded).

This is just common sense: when your life and your children’s lives are at stake, when in doubt, you say no.

What you don’t do is go ahead and spend P13.7 billion on it.