QuiverFullPill Fact Sheet

So they say the pill is safe?

Not everything you hear of these days is the sweetness and light it may seem. January 1999 brought main news headlines of a newly published 25 year study reported in the British Medical Journal (Jan 8th 1999) on the pill's long term side effects. "Pill Study shows no long term side-effects" ran the headline in the Irish Times.. "Pill gets all clear in 25 year study" reported the Irish Independent. Ten years after giving up the pill, its adverse effects by death from cancer and stroke were no different than any other causes. Ecstatic acclamations were reported from the pill providers in Ireland. "Fantastic news" was the reaction by Irish Family Planning Associations (IFPA) board member Professor Walter Prenderville reported in the Irish Times January 8th 1999. There was now "little cause for concern" for women. Dr Sheila Jones, also of the IFPA, commented "it was very reassuring for women who might have been worried" One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps all along we had been too hard on the pill and all the negative press it had suffered. Too hard, that is, until one actually reads the British Medical Journal (BMJ) article itself and analyses it in the light of current medical literature.

Only half the story was reported in the press. The study in question explicitly admitted "significant excess mortality" amongst women who are current users and recent users (up to ten years since last use) For this group, the risk of death for cervical cancer was increased by as much as 200%, for cerebrovascular disease (stroke) an increase of 170% and circulatory diseases 120%. It was only amongst those who survived the first ten years that the relative risk returned to baseline! This is small comfort for those women who DID die of clotting, stroke or cancer. Those women, for obvious reasons, weren't included in the statistics for those women surviving beyond ten years.

And there's more. One glaring weakness in citing this study are the statistics for breast cancer. This study bears no relevance to the greatly increased breast cancer risk (200-480%) reported in other studies for early pill users ie 19 years or younger. This is because the women involved in the study had a median age of 24 years at the start of the study and 49yrs at the end. The risks are 2-4 times higher for women up to 19 years old compared to women 20-24 years because of the rapid tissue and hormonal maturation process in the younger age group.

The figures reported for breast cancer are surprisingly low in every table cited even for women using the pill for greater than ten years duration. Whilst not questioning the validity of methodology of the researchers, the figures reported fly in the face of all the other studies reporting substantial correlation between breast cancer and duration of pill use. In one study of 918 Dutch women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, 85% had used the pill at some time in the past. Another study reported a 310% increase with greater than 10 years use. Even 3 months use of the pill was associated with a 100% increase in breast cancer. The researchers in the BMJ study did acknowledge that "further data are needed to confirm our findings"

Furthermore, this study is completely irrelevant to the brands of pills implicated in the 1995 pill scare and deep vein thrombosis (blood clots). This study started in 1968, with formulations that bear no resemblance to today's pills. With the modern day brands of pills involved in 1995, the risk of blood clots is 600-900% higher than non users of the pill across all age groups. In 15-19 year olds, this can be estimated to rise to twenty fold.

With the incidence of breast cancer, cervical cancer, blood clots, infertility and stroke with the use of the pill, the bald reality is that we are dealing with drug induced vandalism of the female physiology. The spin put on the results of this study by family planning advocates who encourage pill use whilst soothingly minimizing the dangers is a profound injustice to women.

The study reported above deals purely with the clinical side-effects of the pill. The inherent abortifacient nature of the pill is a subject that women too are kept in the dark about. Witness the confusing pharmaceutical jargon employed in the pill leaflet information to describe its mode of action, jargon which admits the possibility of an abortifacient action with terminology that non-medically trained women would struggle to understand. As a pharmacist, I can say with certainty that EVERY type of pill has an intrinsic abortifacient action as a backup mechanism should the other modes of action fail. That a women could unknown to herself be aborting her child after conception during pill use is a shocking reality to many when they realize it. This is a reality denied by many doctors, family planning associations, and other health care professionals.

The ethical and moral implications are profound - not just for the women using these drugs but for the health care professionals promoting these drugs. As with abortion, real and uncomfortable questions arise regarding the status of the embryo from conception - its personhood, dignity and sacred character. It is ironic that the very people and organizations who clamored do much for contraception in the 1970's and 80's, claiming it would prevent abortion in Ireland are the very same parties who are calling for abortion now in the 1990's. Indeed, some are in the forefront of promoting so-called "emergency contraception" whilst denying its explicitly abortifacient action. It is in the interest of the same parties to minimize the impact of pill scares so they can continue their agenda unhampered, an agenda profoundly at variance with the Judeo-Christian life and sexual ethic.

Women who use these products deserve to know all the realities and to make a fully informed choice. To deprive them of this is an attack on their dignity. Women should not be allowed to be scapegoats in the pursuit of vast financial interests. The side-effects of the pill is only a side issue. What we are really witnessing is the clash of two opposing values systems of morality and sexuality. The choice made will greatly impact the welfare or the detriment of us all.

Patrick McCrystal
Executive Director
Human Life International (Ireland)

Jan 1999