February 15, 2013

Be Our Guest / Gary Diehl

We can rely on Mother Church, faith and reason to guide us through life

I would like to respond to the letter written in the Feb. 1 issue of The Criterion where the writer expressed her frustration with Father Tad Pacholczyk’s so-called half-truths written in his column, “The Pill as Health Care?” Unfortunately, I did not read Father’s column, but in expressing her frustration I believe the letter writer has left the reader with some half-truths of her own.

She stated that the risks for women taking the oral contraceptive pill are almost exclusive for women who smoke. I disagree. The health risks exist for all women taking the “pill,” and the risks increase the longer it is taken.

Additionally, the risks are more significant for female smokers over the age of 35 and for women who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day.

The letter writer also stated there was a reduced risk of developing ovarian, endometrial and colorectal cancer, but did not mention the increased risk of cervical cancer and hepatocellular cancer.

Actually, the risk of invasive cervical cancer is greatest in women taking the “pill” for more than five years.

My review involved an estrogen/progestin combination, which is typical of most products. I counted 88 potential adverse effects that a woman could experience using this oral contraceptive, some occurring more or less frequently than others, but the more serious noted were—angioedema, cataracts, depression, intracranial bleeding, myocardial infarction (heart attack), pulmonary embolism, retinal thrombosis, hepatitis, hepatoma, secondary malignancy, stroke, thromboembolism, thrombosis and visual impairment.

Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified combined estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives as carcinogenic in the development of breast, cervical and hepatocellular cancer. They do acknowledge some controversy exists regarding the use of the “Pill” and its relationship to breast cancer, although I find it to be more than coincidental that the rate of breast cancer has significantly increased since the 1960s when the oral contraceptive was first introduced to the market.

Even if some of the risks might be minimal, why would a woman want to subject herself to taking a chemical that changes a natural body function if she is not ill? It seems an exploitation of the woman’s body, especially within a marital relationship.

My dictionary defines the word drug as “any chemical or biological substance, other than food, intended for use in the treatment, prevention, or diagnosis of disease.” I contend that the oral contraceptive has very little health benefit considering that pregnancy is not defined as a disease, and its main indication for use is contraception. The other indication listed is “acne vulgaris.” All of the other uses I found were considered “off-label,” which means not officially approved by the FDA.

A final point which should be significant to all Christian women is how the Pill works. It has three effects within her body. Primarily, it is intended to inhibit ovulation. It also increases the viscosity of the cervical mucus which is intended to prevent sperm penetration, and it alters the endometrial tissue (lining of the uterus), which can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg.

When this last effect occurs, which is sometimes possible due to the failure of the first two actions, it becomes an abortifacient.

(Gary Diehl is a registered pharmacist and member of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County.)

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