A new documentary film is centered around that question, taking on the mission of investigating the safety of birth control pills. While these pills were first introduced to “treat” pregnancy, their use and prescription has increased. With some pills being touted as “miracles” that can do everything from treat acne to reduce the symptoms of PMS, it is no surprise that the popularity of these pills has skyrocketed.
80 percent of women have or will take a form of birth control at some point in their life. As the popularity of these pills has grown, so has the evidence that these pills could cause significant damage to women, and in some cases, even lead to death.
Two filmmakers have decided to take a deeper look into the business of birth control to investigate if women are receiving all of the information they need in order to make informed decisions about contraceptives. Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the duo originally behind the documentary “The Business of Being Born,” have set out on a quest to create a documentary that will inform and illuminate the many birth control options available to women. The film will also present some of the dangerous side effects caused by the pills.
The documentary is titled “Sweetening The Pill” and is set to be released sometime next year. The team secured $119,000 in funding through a Kickstarter campaign and plans to begin production in early August.
Although birth control pills are so widely used, they are not often discussed in detail. There seems to be a strong resistance to questioning these pills and their efficacy. Before understanding the modern debate that surrounds birth control pills, it is important to learn the history and symbolism that has been given to these unique medications.
A Brief History Of Birth Control Pills
In 1957, the FDA approved the first birth control pill. This was extremely significant because it was the first time a medication had been approved to treat healthy patients. Five years after its introduction, over 6 million Americans were using the pill. This did not come without a fair share of controversy, as studies were released for the first 20 years after the pill’s introduction indicating possible significant and dangerous side effects.
In 1988, the FDA removed the original birth control pill from the market. New and less powerful pills were introduced. These pills were supposed to counteract the risks of iron deficiency and ovarian cancer that came to be associated with the disease. More modern options have come onto the market, including both Yaz and the Nuvaring, which present even more potentially dangerous side effects.
The two “mothers” of birth control, Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick, considered birth control to be the real emancipation of women. They argued that women bore the significant brunt of pregnancy and by allowing women the option to forego pregnancy while maintaining their sexual freedom, they would finally be placed on an even playing field with men.
A Revived Controversy for Contraceptives
There are a number of concerns around modern birth control pills. One pill that has gained an increased number of complaints over the years is Yaz. Manufactured by Bayer, Yaz was touted as being a “miracle pill” that could not only prevent pregnancy, but also treat acne, fatigue and symptoms associated with PMS.
Bayer currently faces thousands of lawsuits from women who have used Yaz. Many of these women suffered from debilitating blood clots that lead to serious hospital visits and sometimes even death. There is more information available at the Yaz Overview Page.
Lake and Epstein hope that their film can illuminate the risks associated with modern birth control, as well as encourage women to seek other options. They argue that limiting female biology may not be the ultimate answer to female liberation. In the film trailer, the two encourage the idea that female biology should be embraced and not stifled. They also believe pharmaceutical companies are not giving women proper warnings about these pills.
“We’re not saying, ‘Take these things off the market.’ But they’re not labeled properly,” Lake said in an interview with The Wrap.
“We’re meeting women who came very close to death, having gone to the doctor for weeks for symptoms that were not getting picked up. There’s no education, and at the same time the products are become more dangerous. Not to mention, you’re lucky if you get five minutes to talk to your doctor at Planned Parenthood.”
The Opposition to Lake and Epstein’s Claims
Both Slate and Time have criticized the efforts put forth by Lake and Epstein, citing that the female filmmaking duo is “anti-woman.” Their arguments seem to date back to the initial thoughts behind birth control presented by Sanger and McCormack.
This argument raises some questions about the future of female contraceptives. Is the potential risk of death worth maintaining a woman’s right to birth control? Are other options available that may pose less risk and be less invasive?
Lake and Epstein also hope to highlight some other options woman have as well as propose new options that are not currently publicized. They believe the future of birth control may reside somewhere outside of the pill.
As more technologically advanced fertility monitoring software becomes available, it is possible birth control may take the form of a smartphone app that would inform women of the most fertile times in which they would be more vulnerable to pregnancy.
Stay tuned for the documentary release. Lake and Epstein hope to release it in 2016.
More information about Yaz and its Side Effects can be found here.
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