Wednesday, March 14, 2012

IN SEARCH OF THE KILLER PILL


March 14, 2012

Mama said chew each mouthful 28 times before swallowing. Mama was right, and this applies to anything ingested through the eyes and ears as well. We’re being spoon-fed so much information these days it’s important to chew everything over properly before digesting it.
They’ll show you stuff on TV that’s a blatant distortion. They’ll twist the facts to suit a particular political dogma or a religious one. They’ll disguise the true nature of the ingredients in their foodstuffs. They’ll outright lie about the safety of their products. The list goes on.
It’s all out there. Misinformation from those who don’t know, Disinformation from the ones who do but seek to deceive. Hidden agendas, doublespeak...
So what can you believe these days? And who? The World Health Organization complains that false “facts” keep being circulated in newspapers and elsewhere. And the kind of bad data it mentions in detail is last week’s guest column by Becki Bennett, Walton County representative for the anti-abortion organization Life Chain.
‘Nuff said. This is a person with a mission.
The contraceptive pill, she declared, causes strokes, heart attacks, various nasty cancers and other fatal diseases. She said we may be surprised to learn this. We are, because none of it is true.
From which source did this lady unearth such disturbing information? Certainly not from the World Health Organization that, she claims, labels the pill “a group one carcinogen” because that authority says quite the opposite.
In complaining about false reports such as Ms Bennett’s, the World Health Organization says: “These statements are factually incorrect but unfortunately are widespread. Such negative and sometimes inflammatory media coverage only alarms women and may keep some from using the method when they most need it.”
The full statement may be read at http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/4/10-077446/en/ where the hoax e-mail “true story of a woman who died of a stroke while on hormonal birth control” is also exposed as total invented garbage. This may or may not be the same woman that Ms Bennett says she knew personally.
Wikipedia refers to a 2010 review of the pill that found little or no increased risk of cancer but instead a variety of health benefits, and far from causing death it has been shown to extend women’s lives.
Ms Bennett invites us to embrace a period “before 1930”, when some previous guys lambasted contraception. Perhaps to 1910 but maybe not the full hundred years offered by Southern Baptist leader Albert Mohler nor to the Spanish Inquisition... Nope, scratch that, she wants us back in the 2nd Century listening to a dude called Clement of Alexandria. But I suspect hardly anyone cares to step into her time machine or Albert’s, no matter to which prior century these folks set the dial.
Feet firmly planted in the past, she references the 1970 book ‘The Pill: An Alarming Report’, in which author Morton Mintz warned about ‘the greatest uncontrolled medical experiment in human history.’ Wow! He wasn't one to (sorry) mintz words.
Yet exactly 42 years after that finger-wagging, and 52 years since the pill was introduced, there’ve been hundreds of millions of users and, happily, we’ve seen nothing to cause any real concern.
Ms Bennett also quotes Dr Angela Lanfranchi who’s out there on her own linking use of the pill to breast cancer and appears to get her other information from far-right websites like American Thinker or Knights Of Divine Mercy. I’m an American thinker and I think that on health matters I prefer to believe The World Health Organization.
Let’s be clear. While there are rumblings in alarmist crannies of the medical community about possible links between certain forms of contraceptive pill and cancer there is zero proof. The Food And Drug Administration is looking with a measure of justifiable suspicion at a new version using drospirenone – but not at the hormonal pill already heavily in use for decades.
A simple side effect of that one is breakthrough bleeding, commonly known as ‘spotting’. Every medication has peripherals - even an aspirin can cause the ear-ringing affliction tinnitus, so it’s important to listen up, and to more than one voice. Appropriate here is that silly singsong slogan you hear in all those tiresome drug commercials: “Talk to your doctor.” It’s vital to also do your own research.
Ms Bennett is absolutely right about one thing when she states this is a conscience issue. I say it’s for the conscience of the person deciding whether or not to take the pill or have the abortion and not, absolutely not, for the conscience of some other individual or group of people, religious or otherwise. Basically it’s none of their business. It’s “The gift of life.” Sure, but nobody has the right to force that gift on someone else.
Opinion dressed as facts, is that what we want? Opinion in fact’s clothing like this lady’s column. I won’t join the chorus of critics who tore apart her fear-mongering. Speaking of facts, though, it’s a well-known fact that fear is used to control people. Make ‘em afraid, then have ‘em believe you’re the one who can keep ‘em safe. Such an old trick.
I doubt Ms Bennett would deliberately set out to deceive us with false data. More likely she just repeated what she found elsewhere without checking it first. After chewing her column thoroughly, though, I’m afraid I was forced to spit it right back out.
Oh, and I’m not asking anyone to accept without question anything I say. Check out my facts too.

ENDIT

© 2012 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.