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Instead Of Being Fed False Assurances Of Safety, Women Deserve To Know All The Risks Of Hormonal Birth Control

Why do medical journals and women’s magazines not want women to ask questions about the pill?

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Women who previously swallowed the pill for years without much thought are now questioning hormonal birth control. If the pill may in fact be harming women, a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is trying to convince doctors and women otherwise. 

The study in question is an “umbrella review” of 58 meta-analyses on hormonal birth control found in the public-facing, open access version of JAMA, one of the country’s preeminent medical journals. The study concludes that “of 58 meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials and cohort studies describing 156 associations between hormonal contraceptive use and adverse health outcomes among women, no associations with adverse outcomes, including cardiovascular and cancer risk, were supported by high-quality evidence.” 

Sensing something fishy about this conclusion given the well-established link between hormonal birth control and both breast cancer risks and cardiovascular risks (including blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, and the like), we recently had a panel of doctors and experts at Natural Womanhood dig into the study to ascertain how the JAMA authors could arrive at such benign conclusion. Our panel found plenty of glaring errors with the study, but suffice it to say that a significant amount of data manipulation is at play. 

Essentially, the JAMA study authors cherry-picked studies with data they liked, and moved the goalposts on data quality, arbitrarily deeming evidence that had previously shown a significant correlation between birth control use and certain adverse outcomes (like breast cancer and cardiovascular risks) to be “poor,” according to new definitions of quality that they simply made up.

In fact, if the new standards applied by the JAMA study authors were to be applied to other drugs, it would be virtually impossible to correlate any risks or side effects with the use of, well, anything. As our panel pointed out, for a powerful drug that is prescribed to shut down a functioning system of the body – not a therapeutic intended to treat or cure a disease – the burden of evidence in support of related risks and side effects should arguably be lower, not raised to such impossible heights that any data produced is rendered virtually meaningless.   

This kind of data massaging is all too familiar to anyone who has dared to question the “experts” on Covid over the last two years. In fact, journalist Anna Maltby drew the same Covid parallel in a recent pro-birth control piece for Elle, in which she derides questioning the safety of the powerful synthetic hormones many women put into their bodies. Maltby compares women questioning the pill to anti-Covid vaxxers, whom she blames for this “nightmare of a never-ending pandemic fueled in part by people ‘doing their own research’ and intentionally avoiding a safe, effective, life-saving vaccine.” 

If you think hysterical pro-birth control articles in popular women’s magazines and studies in medical journals have no bearing on real life, think again. There has been a concerted push to make birth control available over the counter across the United States, with new states adopting these policies every few months. In fact, it took very little time for more than 50 state representatives to send a letter to Dr. Robert Califf, after his recent confirmation as the new commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, urging him to “follow the science” and remove prescription requirements for hormonal birth control pills.

Studies published in preeminent journals like JAMA have the potential to be referenced in the crafting of health policies that make it possible for your teenage daughter to get hormonal birth control without your knowledge, which has proved deadly for more than one promising young woman. Cheerleading articles like Maltby’s give the average woman the impression that when it comes to birth control risks, “there’s nothing to see here,” lending popular support for the removal of medical safeguards around birth control access and use. 

On the risks and side effects of birth control (or of any medical intervention, for that matter), women deserve better than having the wool pulled over their eyes. Unfortunately, nearly every form of media, whether academic or popular, serves up the same message: Pipe down, take your pills, and don’t think too hard about what’s in them.