How Safe is Safe Sex?
An Analysis of the Negative Health and Societal Effects of the Pill and Condom
Few man-made products can be said to be 100% effective, and the Pill and the condom, two of the most popular artificial contraceptive methods in the world, are not exceptions. The consumer base for contraceptives is ever-growing, yet few seem to have taken the potentially dangerous long- and short-term impacts into consideration. The negative impacts can be caused both by the express purposes and side effects or misuse of the Pill or condom. This article (and the ones to follow) is intended as a discerning tool for sexually active people who rely or intend to rely on artificial contraception, or even those who have not had intimate relations yet, for the sake of educating them on the impact their individual choices to use the Pill or the condom could have on them and society. In my series of articles, I will address the following questions:
- How might the history of the Pill affect how society views it?
- How might the history of the condom affect how society views it?
- How can the Pill negatively affect one’s health?
- How can the condom negatively affect one’s health?
- How can the Pill and the condom negatively affect society?
Given that consumers of the condom and the birth control Pill use these popular forms of contraception to prevent pregnancy and/or the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, consumers should also take into account the potential negative health and societal effects of such product distribution and use, which, along with the accompanying backgrounds of the Pill and the condom, might change how they view contraception utilization.
How might the history of the Pill affect how society views it?
According to Jason Evert, B.A. (2008), a well-known counselor and author, oral contraception has been in use for centuries: “Some ancient civilizations created drinkable potions of plant and tree bark... extract from the silphium plant was so effective in preventing pregnancy that the plant was used to extinction over fifteen hundred years ago!” (p. 154-5). This puts aside the notion that oral contraception made its big break in the 1960s when the Pill was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood who advocated and funded the initial development of the birth control Pill, believed that, “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it” (as cited in Tatalovich, 1997, p. 124) As a eugenics idealist of the early 20th century, Sanger hoped to purge the American streets of Blacks, immigrants, and indigenous peoples by means of contraception, saying that they were “spawning...human beings who never should have been born” (as cited in Lawrence, 2010, p. 275). By promoting contraception, she would help “to create a race of thoroughbreds” (as cited in Endres et al, 1996, pp. 32-33). Another of Sanger’s objectives was to prevent illegal abortions, which she believed were often the result of “a perverted sex relationship under the stress of economic necessity, and their greatest frequency is among married women” (as cited in Jensen, 2000, p. 74). While this may have been the case, Sanger also believed the marriage vow to be inconsequential (having had at least one affair herself) and that it should not stand in the way of a woman’s sexual satisfaction (as cited in Katz, 2003, p. 62), thus making contraceptive use essential to a woman’s lifestyle and abortion the ultimate fall-back plan. Indeed, Planned Parenthood (which Sanger had first co-founded under the name American Birth Control League in 1921), is the largest abortion provider in the United States, and “more than 1 out of 3 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old” (PlannedParenthood.org, n.d).
Gregory Pincus, an American biologist, was tasked by Planned Parenthood to create an “ideal” and “harmless” form of birth control.
Within a few short years [following Pincus’ experimentation on animals], social workers in Puerto Rico were handing out oral tablets to women throughout the barrio...What these women did not know was that they were being used as test subjects...three women died of complications...the researchers changed the dosage and continued testing. (Evert, 2008, p. 156)Eventually, in 1960 “the FDA approved the birth control pill for contraceptive use” (p. 155). The Pill approved at the time contained “five times as much estrogen as some of today’s birth control pills.... Estrogen enhances clotting of the blood...[which] led to many injuries related to blood clots, such as strokes and heart attacks...[the] FDA told doctors in 1970 to prescribe the lowest possible dose of estrogen available at the time” (p. 156). These high-dosage pills went down in sales, so they were subsequently distributed in developing countries for population control projects, “despite the safety concerns” (p. 156).
This condensed history of the Pill is unattractive, to say the least. The Pill has been consistently used to undermine any woman who was poor and not White, starting out as a eugenics tool, not as the element of liberation it is depicted as today. The Pill may have had its better-intended uses, such as how it may have been intended to lower abortion rates. However, abortion has only increased since the introduction of the Pill, and was legalized in the U.S. not long after the Pill was. Abortion was legalized when Roe V. Wade was passed in 1973, according to Hansen in his 1980 article titled “The Supreme Court, the States, and Social Change: The Case of Abortion” (p. 20).
Endres, K.L., & Lueck, T.L. (Eds.). (1996). Women’s periodicals in the united states: social and political issues. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Evert, J. (2008). If you really loved me. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Inc.
Hansen, S. B. (1980). The Supreme Court, the States, and Social Change: The Case of Abortion. Peace & Change, 6(3), 20.
Jensen, C. (2000). Stories that changed america: muckrakers of the 30th century. New York, NY:
Seven Stories Press.Katz, E. (Ed.). (2003). The selected papers of margaret sanger, vol. 1. [Publication information not
given]: U.S.A.Lawrence, R.J. (2010). The marxist goliath among us: the david we need to be. [No place of
publication given]: U.S.A.Tatalovich, R. (1997). The politics of abortion in the united states and canada: a comparative
study. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.