Author of Sweetening the Pill or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control, Holly Grigg-Spall is raising the sword of justice for informed consent before the pharmaceutical companies export the Depo-Provera birth control vaccine – rejected by so many women because of severe side effects and withdrawal (Depo Provera Withdrawal – A Woman’s Worst Nightmare). If women in the U.S. and other industrialized nations are struggling with this synthetic hormones steroid in a needle – then common sense would dictate that women in developing world countries are going to be even more severely affected to this type of birth control.
Yes, the reasoning for fertility control is sound – but at what cost? Sterility? Depression, anxiety, heavy bleeding upon withdrawal? And who will monitor the side effects…
A rose is always a rose – and in this case a birth control method gone bad will always be a bad birth control method – even with a new name and packaging.
Sayana Press: Exporting Birth Control We Won’t Use
by Holly Grigg-Spall
SAYANA PRESS. It sounds like a new coffee maker, doesn’t it? Or the latest Victoria’s Secret angel. If the giddy endorsement of Cosmopolitan’s Jill Filipovic last month is to be believed, it’s certainly as harmless as either of these and a whole lot more exciting. Sayana Press is actually a version of a drug otherwise known as Depo-Provera, one that comes in a disposable needle-bubble product that a woman can administer herself without the supervision of a medical practitioner. In case you’re not familiar with Depo-Provera, in the US, it’s predominantly provided to lower-income, teen, and African American women as a contraceptive method. It is also administered as a form of chemical castration for male sex offenders.
Most of the recent press coverage of the collaboration between pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Gates Foundation that will bring this device to women in the developing world gushed about the numbers of women’s lives that will be saved. The implication is that women die during childbirth in high numbers in developing countries because childbirth is inherently dangerous, when of course the context – impoverished living, poor sanitation, and poor nutrition, to name a few – has a large bearing on the outcome. Even if the women have fewer children, the poverty will remain – leaving both the woman and her children vulnerable to sickness and death.
Sayana Press is planned for use in rural areas where women have little to no access to healthcare otherwise and must travel great distances to a clinic. It is small, cheap to produce, and portable, and as such will reach those for whom this will likely be the only form of contraceptive medication made available to them. It’s ironic when you think about it – a device heralded for saving women’s lives and protecting their reproductive health serves to highlight how little healthcare they would otherwise receive. Clearly it’s limiting births and not limiting deaths that’s the main priority when it comes to the development of this product. Sayana Press might seem cheap – $1 per three-month dose – but in comparison to the alternative of providing full healthcare services to all women through the redistribution of wealth and resources, it’s a cost-saving device developed by some of the richest people on the planet.
Filipovic writes, “Eventually, the makers of this injectable contraception say they hope women won’t even have to see a health worker every three months…” It is as though the only reason a woman might want to see a health worker is for birth control, not for, say, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories or for a run-of-the-mill checkup.