The Vatican’s Misleading Birth Control Story


The Vatican
recently stated that oral contraceptives are negatively impacting the
environment and male fertility. 
Not surprisingly, the Vatican fails to look honestly at the scientific
evidence or at the bigger picture. 

It is true that human exposure to chemicals
in our every day environment deserves more attention.  A growing body of scientific
evidence
indicates that
chemicals in our environment are negatively affecting male and female
fertility as well as the health of the developing fetus. More and more
reproductive health, rights and justice organizations, advocates, and health care providers are calling for research that will enhance
our knowledge of this issue and on reforms that will minimize our exposure
to harmful chemicals. Reproductive Health Technologies Project
is committed to the effort

But this is an extremely complex issue. 
While there is evidence that estrogenic contaminants in the environment
are having a negative impact, there is no evidence that oral contraceptives
are the main culprit.  There are many other estrogenic drugs in
the environment – including hormone replacement and estrogen mimics
that are used for chemotherapy. In addition, industrial chemicals that
can mimic hormones such as those found in detergents are also estrogenic. 

We are aware of only one study that
focuses exclusively on the impact of the specific synthetic estrogen
(17α-esthinylestradiol, commonly called EE2) contained in some oral contraceptives
(many oral contraceptives do not contain EE2).  But in this study,
EE2 was tested in its "pure" form, not as it is released in a woman’s
urine.  The Vatican’s effort to disparage contraceptives misses
the larger picture — we need better water treatment systems to get
rid of ALL the chemicals.   

Naturally the Vatican’s analysis also
fails to acknowledge the benefits of contraception to reproductive health
and the environment. Most mainstream scientists agree that the
human impact on the environment is the most detrimental.  Contraception
has enabled women and families to decide when and how many children
to have and this in turn has been show to improve the health of children,
women, communities and the planet. The Vatican’s overstatement of
this science is just the most recent twist in their decades-long rejection
of safe, effective modern methods of contraception.

But there is a lot we can and should
do, including: 

  • Passing comprehensive chemical
    policy reform in the United States through such legislation as the Kids
    Safe Chemical Act
  • Urging for more research
    into the impact of all pharmaceuticals in the environment
  • Ensuring that waste water
    treatment plants use the most effective methods to remove contaminants;
    and
  • Supporting "green chemistry"
    so that all pharmaceuticals including contraception are safe and effective
    while not harming the environment.

We urge the Vatican to join us in these
efforts — efforts that will move us in the direction of protecting
the environment and our fertility.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

  • truth

    You say at the beginning of your blog,

    "The Vatican recently stated that oral contraceptives are negatively impacting the environment and male fertility.  Not surprisingly, the Vatican fails to look honestly at the scientific evidence or at the bigger picture." 

    It wasn’t only the Vatican, it was one of three creators of The Pill! I know that by using the Vatican as the moral police you get people worked up over them, but what don’t you mention the Truth. This wasn’t generated by the Vatican – it was generated by one of your own.

    "Eighty five year old Carl Djerassi the Austrian chemist who helped invent the contraceptive pill now says that his co-creation has led to a ‘demographic catastrophe.’"

    Djerassi is one of three creators of the pill, and is now remorseful of the effects his co-creation has caused! Wow.

    Not only are we talking about the effects of our female population taking the pill and peeing it back into the environment, we are also talking about phasing ourselves out of existence!

    Djerassi also said that in most of Europe there was now "no connection at all between sexuality and reproduction." How sad is this?

    Read article here:

    http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=11004

     

    • invalid-0

      hey Truth – I notice you’re not worked up about people who are taking Viagara, heart medications, opiate pain killers and *gasp* even VITAMINS who are “peeing it” into the environment.
      If it’s such a big environmental concern and the human race is in danger of “phasing itself out of existence” why aren’t you concerned with cleaning up environmental disasters that actual children have to live in in India or China?
      Oh wait- it’s all about the WHITE race and THEIR precious “unborns”. Huh.

    • invalid-0

      http://jscms.jrn.columbia.edu/cns/2008-02-19/cupido-birthcontrol
      http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/124939_estrogen04.html

      The more bazaar something seems the more it seems to be true these days. I never knew all of this stuff was real. I too thought the Catholic Church was making it up. And then I decided to actually read the sources and ended up reverting from exposure to non-Catholic sources. It seems that the ancient Church does in fact hold much wisdom to be admired. We’re killing ourselves and are too foolish to realize the damage will adversely affect the future of our children…that is if we actually have children with what this is beginning to look like. Look at what we’re doing blindly: genetically produced foods, hormones in cows milk, plastics, air polution, nuclear waste, etc. It seems that it is true after all, Philip Jenkins is write in his book “The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice”. Go pick on a Buhdist for a change and leave us alone. Do you know Orthodox Judaism teachings? Why, contraception is also wrong with them. Look at our country today. Noone to take the place of retiring workers… We have to import our workers and it seems like the only people willing to have children are the folks we want to get rid of, the overwhelming fastest growing group of people in this country, Hispanics. The concept of the pill was initiated to get rid of or limit the undesireable African American population, and we just bought right into the lie. What can you say about a nation that kills over a million unborn babies a year. The African American population has a dispraportionate number of deaths because many whites convinced the blacks that it was for their own good. We are truly a sick people.

    • http://www.djerassi.com invalid-0

      This is an outrageous calumny, misquoting me in this manner. Please look at my full rebuttal in the January 27 issue of the Guardian (London)

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/27/medical-research-health-response

      Please stop spreading this fiction about me.

      Carl Djerassi

  • invalid-0

    The Vatican would almost certainly join you in ensuring that there was better waste treatment to eliminate these chemicals from our environment. But I’d point out a few issues here that need to be better addressed to make the points stronger.

    1) While the Pill may not be the only thing releasing estrogens into the environment through women’s urine, there are substantially more women in the world on the Pill or a form of the Pill than are on estrogen therapy for menopause or on mimics for chemotherapy. Think it through on any level and how many women do you personally know on any of these things? Plus don’t forget to include such things as the Mirena IUD which would have the same effect and would also be the same effect as the Pill in terms of both urine and the Roman Catholic Church.

    2) The Roman Catholic Church’s stance in terms of reproductive health is against contraception. This is true. However, it is not against the use of the same drugs for treatment of medical issues, even where contraception is a side effect. So the Church is not against the use of the Pill in all circumstances, or even IUDs. (An issue I’ve investigated strongly myself as I have a Mirena IUD for medical reasons and am a Catholic.)

    3) What the Roman Catholic Church is very much in favour of is indeed reproductive health. The problem is that what the Church teaches gets over simplified into things that just are used to bash the Church and indeed any faith in the bargain. What the church teaches first and foremost is that sex is only allowed between a husband and wife. Most people ignore this at some point. And yet, if people followed it, you’d stop transmission of STD in its tracks. You’d do away with unwanted pregnancy in unmarried couples. You’d equally do away with the vast majority of abortions, which even people who are pro-choice would prefer. (I’ve never met a pro-choicer yet, and I am prochoice myself, who thought abortion was a good method of birth control or easy to go through for anyone.) But people don’t follow the Church’s teaching on that, so then instead of anyone discussing the hows and whys of that, it is much easier to bash the Church and its stance on contraception. Which leads, in the end, to nothing. The Church doesn’t change its position. The RH people don’t want to acknowledge anything that might make it look like they think the Church might be right. It is a stalemate, and getting nastier, when instead both sides could go much further than they think by actually talking to each other! Go for it.

    Anne

  • emily-douglas

    Djerassi’s remarks had to do only with the Pill’s demographic consequences, not its environmental effects, which have little bearing on this article. Djerassi, and anyone else, can regret the change in family structure the Pill has enabled, but why would they? Do they really oppose the freedom hormonal contraception offers women and families have to plan their most significant life choices?

  • http://www.cpcwatch.org invalid-0

    “What the church teaches first and foremost is that sex is only allowed between a husband and wife. And yet, if people followed it, you’d stop transmission of STD in its tracks. You’d do away with unwanted pregnancy in unmarried couples.”

    And what about unwanted pregnancy in MARRIED couples?

  • invalid-0

    Anne, the report the Vatican favors only proves that there is synthetic estrogen in the water. It does not demonstrate that those chemicals can only come from the urine of women on the Pill. That would require the following: 1. strict identification of the types of synthetic estrogen used in oral contraception; 2. a way to distinguish those chemicals from other synthetic estrogen such as that produced by pesticides; 3. identification of the form of the specified synthetic estrogen as it appears in women’s urine.

    None of those things happens.

    Finally, on a more general point, if you as a Catholic want to follow their teaching on birth control, be my guest. Your church, however, wants me to be forced by the government to follow their teaching, and I’m not and never will be Catholic. (I have an objection to taking orders from men who hate women.) If the Church shuts completely up about public policy, I’ll quit criticizing it.

  • http://kelleybell.blogspot.com invalid-0

    I could not care less what “The Church Teaches” on any subject concerning women. We are quite capable of thinking for ourselves, thank you very much.

    When they elect a woman Pope, I will be all ears. Until then, if The Church insists on structuring their organization as a “Mens Only Club”, then I proclaim the right of all women to restrict The Vaticans sphere of influence accordingly.

    They have my blessing to put out statements on vasectomy, but not The Pill.

  • invalid-0

    What the Catholic Church wants to do as any Religious Right organization is to STOP the peoples right to make their own decisions for anything! They are still preaching and wanting abstinence ONLY!!!
    They are misleading which makes them decietful in there endeavors! AND this is from folks who have never, well as far as we know, had sex be it nuns or clergy!

  • truth

    That the Catholic Church cares about you at all? I think everyone on the left assumes that The Church wants to "control" you or others? They don’t – they are simply trying to get to the Truth on issues. You don’t have to subscribe to their findings, but I think we would all agree that it is nice to have an institution willing to take the time to uncover the Truth in a world that is typically very biased toward people’s agenda(s) especially modernism or contemporary thoughts. I wish our society was more logical and philosophical in their approach to dealing with difficult issues like contraception and abortion. Unfortunately, people are no longer interested in getting to the Truth of the matter – emotion drives our decisions and so we tend to fit the solution around what we WANT to happen – in other words – we are already tied to an outcome instead of letting the Truth guide us. This was evident with Roe v. Wade when the Justices at the time threw logic out the window by making a decision about a human life when they all agreed that they didn’t know (for sure) when it began? This simply negates logic because we all know that if there is a possibility of murder than one should (at the very least) hold off judgement until such time that they are 110% sure it is or is not a human life!

    • invalid-0

      I think we would all agree that it is nice to have an institution willing to take the time to uncover the Truth in a world that is typically very biased toward people’s agenda(s)

      I do and we have them- RHReality Check, National Organization of Women, Freethinking societies, debate clubs, even sometimes the internet!
      The Catholic cult isn’t one of them.

      What’s amusing is that you insert “truth” (and capitalize it!) for where most opposition commenters on here insert “god”.

      Please, if you can sometimes actually READ the judges opinions on Roe Vs. Wade rather than characterizing something you know nothing about.

      I wish our society was more logical and philosophical in their approach to dealing with difficult issues like contraception and abortion.

      It’s getting there as people realize it is about individual choice rather than forcing everyone to subscribe to ONE set of “beliefs”. Sorry- I know that’s not what you want to hear but that’s why there’s more than one author in the Philosophy section of the bookstores that I go to. (I don’t know about yours)

      • invalid-0

        Catholic Cult? I am always impressed by arguments that start with name calling. It shows insight clarity, and good judgment. Seriously its impossible to have a rationale conversation with anyone who resorts to name calling and intimidation to make an point in their argument. This tactic is juvenile and sad. Of course condemnation is also another fun way to argue. As far as being unbiased I have to say that NOW and reality check are misleading sources of biased information used for the soul purpose of profiting from the abortion industry.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for all your comments and thoughts—I’m pleased that so many people are engaged and interested in this story. I want to respond to a few points that have been raised in the comments. First, I am encouraged and truly hope that the Catholic Church will work to improve our environment and will advocate for better wastewater treatment.

    However, the science on causes and consequences of exposures is complex. One of the reasons that the science is so complex is that there are many types of chemicals that can have hormone-like effects, including synthetic chemicals, naturally occurring (plant and animal) estrogens, and pharmaceutical estrogens. Each of these types of chemicals have multiple sources.

    Chemicals that mimic hormones are referred to as endocrine disruptors and they are present throughout our environment and in products we use every day, such as plastics, computers, and household cleaners. Endocrine disruptors have been associated with a host of negative health outcomes including breast cancer, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and infertility. Naturally occurring estrogens come from plants and animals. Estrogens are also found in a variety of pharmaceuticals including hormone replacement therapies, chemotherapy drugs and some contraceptives. As I state in my blog post, blaming contraceptives as the main culprit is inaccurate and irresponsible.

    The Vatican’s effort to disparage contraceptives misses the larger picture and ignores the benefits of contraception to reproductive health and the environment.

  • invalid-0

    hmm.. I agree this is a complex issue…
    Truth is too many chemicals are in the environment and anyone taking a stand against that is GOOD!!

    Now how much percentage goes to what, that would be good to study.. if it is at all possible, and how?

    Thing is, I think every little bit ‘helps’… meaning lots of ‘little things’ can cause a lot of damage (together), & lots of ‘helpful things’ can help…

    So… avoiding the bad plastics etc. & going ‘zero waste’ where possible.. living & eating healthy, avoiding bad products and chemicals..

    As for contraceptives.. Thing is some women react BADLY to contraceptives, or can’t take them for medical reasons.. So contraceptives are NOT an answer to everything!!
    Is it impossible to control births without contraceptives?

    Some women in Naturalliving (the Livejournal community) are quite happy with natural & non-drug choices they made..
    I think ideally more women would get to know the natural methods too, & also possible bad consequences of oral contraceptives, so they can decide in a more informed way…

    Personally I am pro-choice & have friends who needed contraceptives as part of hormonal therapy.. But I also know people who reacted badly to oral contraceptives, myself included.. And the gynaecologist did not inform me of the more natural ways or possible ‘side effects’.. All of them were not even listed, or just vaguely..
    So ideally there would be more information on these aspects too..

  • colleen

    <i>"Why do you think that the Catholic Church cares about you at all?"</i>

     

     I don’t know that any of us believe that the Catholic Church  (or, to be fair,  anyone else in the ‘pro-life’ movement) cares about us. Y’all seem like a remarkably uncaring and dishonest bunch, to tell the truth.And, of course, in the case of the RCC we’re talking about an institution that spent 2 centuries debating whether or not women had souls and the following two centuries torturing and burning us to death and it’s pretty clear that, given enough rein, y’all would be back at it if we let you.   We’re talking about an institution that, within my lifetime,  imprisoned and made slaves of women in the Magdalene laundries. We’re talking about men who believe that it’s a greater sin for a Priest to have consensual sex with a woman than for one of their own to rape little children.We’re talking about an institution that profits from human misery; that pretends to care about the poor while profiting from and exacerbating poverty.and suffering. The Vatican and it’s followers interest in women is that of a farmer examining breeding livestock, nothing more. We don’t make the mistake of believing The Church cares about us, any woman who does is a fool. The RCC has hated and displayed contempt towards women for millenia, why should we?

    The RCC has never been interested in getting to the truth of matters. They’re only interested in shoving their pathetic, atrophied ‘truth’ down our throats in a one way dialogue because too many men,  being unable to control themselves, long for the days when they were legally able to control women.

     

     

     

  • truth

    So let me get this straight – you feel that because the Roman Catholic Church has, at times, abused their power and mistreated women that you are going to kill off your own offspring? Interesting strategy. What else are you going to do – bang your head against steel for awhile? Smart.

    As far as reigning is concerned – you should probably ask your fellow Darwinist’s about "The Theory of Natural Selection." You are lucky that an institution like The Catholic Church exists to uphold Jesus’ teachings because this is the only thing that saves you from being where you should be in the Natural Heirarchy. Human men are clearly the more dominant species from a pure animalistic perspective. Again, luckily for your sake God gave us intellect separating us from the animal kingdom where you would have only the rights we would choose to give you. I would start thanking God for creating man with the ability to reason and logic or you wouldn’t have the ability to discuss issues like these freely. The Roman Catholic Church has been vital in procuring rights for all people – especially women. You know not that which you speak of…

    • invalid-0

      men and women are the same species… also, natural selection doesn’t apply to gender. just fyi.

    • invalid-0

      I’m lucky????? Wow. Your comments make it sound like you hate women. You may want to consider seeking psychiatric help for whatever deep-seated issues you have. While you are in the waiting room, I suggest reading Charles Darwin’s “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”. After reading this book, I think you’ll find yourself better equipped to comment on human evolution and natural selection.

  • jennifer4

    CongratsJenn and RHTP for laying these complex issues out in a clear and concise way. We’re learning more and more about the ways that some toxins andchemicals we are exposed to in our everyday lives affects our reproductivehealth, including the effects of pharmaceuticals in our water supply. As thereproductive health community grapples with these issues and calls for moreresearch, we need to watch for attacks like this one from the Catholic Church. If history tells us anything, opponents of contraception (among otherthings) will take advantage of any opportunity to use misinformation and fearto sway public opinion – a tough task considering the vast majority of thepublic supports access to contraception.  The Catholic Church saw theopportunity and took it.  Congrats again for setting the record straight.

  • invalid-0

    Let’s see–because the Vatican reported it, the story is “misleading.” Did the Seattle Post-Intelligencer make a “misleading” report in 2003 when they published a story about the birth control pill effecting the salmon population? Did the EPA make a “misleading” report in 2005 when they linked synthetic estrogen from birth control pills to the damaged trout population? Did the Canadian Freshwater Institute release “misleading” information in their 3 YEAR research findings of EE2, the chemical you list above, and its impact in US waterways? What about the “misleading” information Scientific American published in an article in 2007 regarding synthetic estrogen, fish, and cancer? The scientific community has been alerted to estrogens environmental impact for about a decade. Along with the pharmaceutical companies, they have kept this from the community. Synthetic estrogen released in women’s urine around the WORLD from birth control pills, the patch, and IUD’s IS contaminating the environment. Good heavens. All human beings have a RIGHT to know the TRUTH. It’s time to get in out in the open–before it’s too late.

  • invalid-0

    they are blaming oral contraceptives for all of the negative environmental effects of synthetic estrogen. As Jenn says above, oral contraceptives are not the only estrogenic compounds out there. The Vatican is using their supposed concern for the environment (and MALE fertility) as yet another excuse to attack reproductive health and family planning. The point is that more research is needed to find a solution (the Truth?) that works for us all.

  • invalid-0

    The Vatican’s argument is flawed because it is too broad. Are there hormones in the water? Yes, but without thorough research in a controlled environment, there is no way to prove that birth control pills are solely responsible, as the Vatican’s report suggests. It is naive and short-sighted to say that the only culprit is birth control. I applaud the Catholic Church for being concerned about the environmental impact pollutants have on our water suuply, but if the RCC was truly concerned about estrogen in the water, it would focus its efforts on eliminating all sources of water contamination, not just the contaminants it morally disagrees with.

  • invalid-0

    There would be no need for contraceptives if we had not ‘eaten from the tree of knowledge’. Blame technology, hmmm I guess a lot of male scientists ahould be in trouble. We have disturbed the balance of life and there is no turning back. The church needs to stop blaming women for everything and deal with the unbalance. We are all sinners male and female!

  • invalid-0

    There would be no need for contraceptives if we had not ‘eaten from the tree of knowledge’. Blame technology, hmmm I guess a lot of male scientists ahould be in trouble. We have disturbed the balance of life and there is no turning back. The church needs to stop blaming women for everything and deal with the unbalance. We are all sinners male and female!

  • invalid-0

    Nothing….

    Some on – as the old joke says, “you know how the Pope is lying? His lips are moving!”

    Look at the situation we have today. Pollution is on the rise and so is the population. The Vatican has tried uncontrolled breeding and look where it’s got us. As was said it’s nothing but an old boy’s club TRYING to have complete control of women again. And THIS time it’s not washing. Let’s face it – women are TIRED of men controlling their lives. I as a women think that men should let WOMEN make the decisions on WOMEN’S issues. The day I see the Pope get RAPED, get PREGNANT from said rape and THEN be told he can’t do anything about it is the day I will say that men can have a voice on this. Does anyone think that maybe all the enviromental pollution is more the cause of the decline in male fertility, NOT the women taking oral contraceptives? I think so. As was said – stop with the fundie whine of “it’s the woman’s fault”

    grow up.

  • invalid-0

    So let me get this straight – you feel that because the Roman Catholic Church has, at times, abused their power and mistreated women that you are going to kill off your own offspring? Interesting strategy. What else are you going to do – bang your head against steel for awhile? Smart.

    Truth: the catholic church did not simply abuse their power “at times”. Much of their behaviour showed a very clear and ongoing pattern of it whenever they had they had real power in society.
    In recent times this organization colluded in the activities of child rapists by moving them from parish to parish. That strikes me as a very consistent pattern of abuse of power to me.

  • invalid-0

    Great post and some very interesting points. However, I agree that “the Vatican’s argument is flawed because it is too broad. Are there hormones in the water? Yes, but without thorough research in a controlled environment, there is no way to prove that birth control pills are solely responsible, as the Vatican’s report suggests.”

    -Arren
    Ruptured ovarian cyst symptoms

  • colleen

    "In recent times this organization colluded in the activities of child
    rapists by moving them from parish to parish. That strikes me as a very
    consistent pattern of abuse of power to me."

     

     

    They’re still doing it.http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2008625875_suit14m0.html 

     

    The Catholic church has been operating as the enabler and administrator of an international pedophile ring for generations. 

  • http://www.vasectomyreversalusa.com/ invalid-0

    How can women be blamed for environmental pollution and male fertility? There are lot more things other than pills which need attention.

    -Martin

  • http://www.scalewatcher.co.uk invalid-0

    Vatican is not always looking for what’s good or wrong for people. Prists are always seperating the body and a soul, this and after life. But some matters should be only spoken by a governement withouth prists’ attention. As it is in this example.