Humanae Vitae vs. Big Pharma

Today is the 49th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. In 1968, with the world in the midst of a sexual revolution, it was widely anticipated that the pope would reverse Church teaching on the use of artificial contraception.

He did just the opposite. He reinforced the doctrine.

Pope Paul was not blind to what was happening outside the Vatican and he presciently predicted the further erosion of society if the use of birth control became widespread. He wrote:

“… First of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men-especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point-have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anticonceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

All of this happened, even with the Church’s refusal to sanction artificial birth control. But birth control doesn’t only aid in the exploitation of women. It also compromises our health and our fertility. Sometimes, it kills us.

Although there are plenty of harmful drugs and devices being marketed to women and teenage girls, I’d like to focus, again, on the pills Yaz and Yasmin, which I’ve written about before. Owned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer, the pills have killed at least 200 women and sent another 60,000 to the hospital. As of January 2016, the company had settled more than 18,000 lawsuits by paying out more than $2 billion for injuries including blood clots, pulmonary embolism, gallbladder damage, strokes and heart attacks.

Yaz and Yazmin remain on the market.

Bayer is also the distributor of a diabolical little device called Essure. It’s sold to women as a permanent sterilization method that is much more convenient than a tubal ligation (both are against Catholic teaching, obviously.)

Essure is a copper coil that is implanted in a woman’s fallopian tubes. Scar tissue grows around the coils, thus blocking eggs from being released. It sounds like a bad idea and it has been for thousands of women who have had it implanted. Bayer has paid out more than $413 million in lawsuits in the U.S. and the FDA has imposed a black box warning.  Brazil has banned it altogether.

Essure remains on the market in the U.S.

I am singling out Bayer and its women-unfriendly products because you may have seen a television commercial for a new IUD called Kyleena. This device also comes from Bayer and it works by releasing the hormone levonorgestrel (the same hormone found in morning-after pills like Plan B). The levonorgestrel makes it harder for sperm to reach the uterus and harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus. Preventing a fertilized egg from implanting constitutes a very early abortion.

Kyleena is being heavily marketed as an easier alternative to taking the Pill, because it’s apparently too hard to remember to take a pill once a day. The commercial makes it clear that it’s aimed at young, single women, who should be put off by the mandated warnings that include potential loss of fertility and death but apparently are seduced by Kyleena’s five-year effectiveness.

I haven’t been able to find any lawsuits filed against Kyleena yet, but the FDA only approved it late last year, so some may be forthcoming. Kyleena joins four other IUDs in the lucrative contraception market: Mirena, Skyla (both are Bayer’s), Liletta and Paragard. Most use levonorgestrel but Paragard, like Essure, relies on the toxicity of copper to do its deadly work.

None of these are good for women, both for the reasons Pope Paul predicted in Humanae Vitae and because the pharmaceutical industry sees women and our fertility as a limitless source of income. They don’t care how much we are harmed, as long as they continue to reap those profits.

 

 

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