Georgia L Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.
A new Oxford study has concluded that all forms of hormonal contraception used by women increase breast cancer risk by a quarter.
While Cancer Research, the charity that funded it, said the findings ought not to dissuade women from using such medication – and millions of British women already have – the backlash has already begun.
The paper concluded that out of every 100,000 women between ages 16 and 20 who use hormonal birth control, there will be an extra eight instances of breast cancer compared to those who avoid hormonal contraception entirely; for 35 to 39-year-old women, the number swells to a further 295 cases of breast cancer per 100,000.
Of course, life itself is laced with risk. Any one of us could step outside tomorrow morning and be hit by a car or struck by lightning. And unlike leaving the house, taking hormonal contraception is, of course, optional.
But social glorification of the pill’s allegedly liberating consequences has too long stifled debate about its impacts.
An equally huge technological watershed, the internet, has lately facilitated an explosion of interest in the topic. The hashtags #gettingoffbirthcontrol and naturalbirthcontrol have garnered almost 75 million views collectively on TikTok alone.
While some have suggested this is a socially-conservative movement, in reality it involves women of a variety of political and religious peruses (and none) realising their health has been unfairly compromised.
Last October, bombshell figures from top firm Stowe Family Law found that 63 per cent of women stopped using some form of contraception due to its impact on their relationship, and nine in 10 women on hormonal birth control said they had experienced a change in their mental or physical health.
There is even evidence that hormonal contraception changes who women are attracted to.
Is it any surprise? Such medications are often ingested as a matter of convenience, but they contain powerful hormones which are intended to impact our biology and behaviours.
Women may take them for birth control, improving painful periods, or even acne, but find themselves faced with another set of problems entirely.
The pill has now been around for several generations, but we have failed to consider the gravity of its changes.
Like many socially revolutionary causes, boomers often associate it with the so-called swinging Sixties. But much like colour television, the pill only became truly consequential the following decade: it was accessible to married women in the UK from 1961, but only became free to women regardless of marital status from 1974.
For the first time in human history, women could consider sexual intercourse with a small risk of pregnancy.
In 2021 the progesterone-only pill and the combined pill became legal over the counter, allowing women to access them without a GP consultation. It seems when it comes to medicine that relates to reproduction (or the attempt to avoid it) the emphasis is too often placed on a certain vision of freedom, rather than informed choices.
Sarah Hill, a psychology professor at Texas Christian University who recently authored popular-science book This Is Your Brain on Birth Control, described her epiphany upon coming off the pill after a decade of use as like “waking up,” telling The Cut magazine:
“I realised like, Oh yeah, that’s right, hormones influence the brain, and if you change hormones you’re going to change what women’s brains do… It was a pretty embarrassing epiphany to have as a psychologist.”
Others are less than concerned. “I’m GLAD I took the pill, even if there’s a chance it caused my breast cancer,” wrote Jenni Murray in the Daily Mail following the study.
Murray is of course free to make such a judgement about her own life. But how many young women have not been told the full truth before plunging into body-altering drugs?
The idea that the pill enables consequence-free casual sex has always been a lie. Sex, and the medication that may be used to mitigate its natural impacts, almost always have consequences, whether they be emotional, medical, or social.
Commentators are finally taking aim at the founding myth of post-war feminism: that contraception is liberation in a lump of powder. Recent work from unconventional feminist authors such as Mary Harrington and Louise Perry has provided a crucial counterpoint to the prevailing narrative that the pill has been a net good for both women and their relationships.
Perry’s Case Against the Sexual Revolution probes how so-called hook-up culture, facilitated in large part to contraception, has left modern women confused and often pressured into behaving as if sex is really no big deal.
Meanwhile Harrington has gone as far to suggest that the proliferation of the pill and its pharmaceutical bedfellows has led us down the path of transhumanism, so much has it dystopically manipulated our biological norms.
It is high time our medical and social institutions seriously consider – as so many young women have already begun to do themselves – the risks of normalising hormonal contraception.
The post Georgia L Gilholy: Women are waking up to the dangers of the pill – it’s time society did the same appeared first on Conservative Home.
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Author: Georgia L. Gilholy
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