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Sex, Lies and Birth Control: What You Need to Know About Your Birth Control Campaign

by the Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment


As women of color, our rights to safe and voluntary sex, birth control and motherhood are increasingly restricted, controlled and criminalized. Punitive welfare policies dictate families' lives. Coercive programs target low income and women of color for high risk contraceptives. New laws and policies make abortion access more difficult and costly. These developments devalue our human rights and harm our ability to sustain our families, our communities, and our lives. Attacks on women's health constitute unethical attempts to control women's lives and dictate who among us can have, keep, and raise children. We strongly oppose demographically driven population policies that do not ensure safe and secure environments for all women.


In the 1990's many health care providers and reproductive rights activists in the US embraced Norplant and Depo-Provera as highly effective, long lasting birth control methods that expand women's contraceptive "choices." Supporters, however, have ignored the crucial fact that Norplant and Depo have been associated with serious risks, especially for poor and politically powerless women.


seeks to build knowledge and promote systemic change by highlighting the risks, side effects and history of birth control and by collecting the testimonials of women who have had their bodies and lives greatly impacted by contraceptives and coercive reproductive practices.


Depo Provera (also know as depo or the shot) is an injectable form of the hormone, progesterone. The hormone enters the blood stream and works systemically to prevent pregnancy by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries and by thickening the cervical mucus to impede sperm movement.


- Critical Concerns: Most women who use depo gain weight. Many experience a irregular menstrual bleeding, nausea, depression, loss of sex drive, delayed return of fertility and/or sterility, headaches, hair loss, acne, nervousness, increased risk of breast, cervical and uterine cancers. Depo is not a barrier method and can increase risk of getting STD's and HIV.


- History: Depo was involuntarily tested on 14,000 women from 1967 to 1978, by Upjohn, Inc. 50% of the subjects were African American, low income and rural women subjected to trials without their consent. Today poor women, women of color, and young women are targeted users. Depo is still considered a "foolproof method" despite its effects on women's health.


If you have a story about depo please contact [email protected].


Implanon & Norplant (also known as Jadelle)

These contraceptive implants release a hormone through a set of rods under the skin of the upper arm. Implanon, a silicone rod approximately 1.5 inches, approved by the FDA in August 2006, is the only implant currently marketed in the US. Implanon works systemically, preventing pregnancy for three years by gradually releasing etonogestrel into the body, preventing the monthly release of an egg and thickening the cervical mucous to impede sperm movement.


- Critical Concerns: The Implanon rod will be marketed as a "set it and forget it" contraceptive even though this method requires six-month checkups. Removal can be difficult and must be performed by a provider. Once implanted, side effects, including prolonged, frequent, or infrequent bleeding or no periods at all, possible weight gain, headaches, nausea, breast pain, and acne, are often irreversible. Less frequently, women have experienced hair loss, mood changes, painful periods and loss of sexual desire. This method does not provide protection against sexually infectious diseases and HIV.


- History: Many women have reported that removal is painful because of weight gain or scar tissue growth over the implant. In some cases implants have broken up within the arm, and doctors have had difficulty removing these floating pieces. The long term effect of the hormone release has yet to be researched.


Quinacrine is a pellet inserted into the uterus, causing scar tissue formation that blocks the fallopian tubes and makes the passage of eggs impossible.


- Critical Concerns: Quinacrine has not been adequately tested for long term side effects, although the pellet is associated with a number of serious short-term side effects, including burning and irritation of the vaginal walls, narrowing of the cervical opening, uterine adhesions, stimulation of the central nervous system, toxic psychosis, and perforation of the uterus. Quinacrine is also an agent that causes mutations in the living cells. It is, of course, not a barrier method for sexually infectious diseases and HIV.


- History: Quinacrine was originally administered as an anti-malarial drug but has never been approved by the FDA or any other regulatory body as a method of sterilization. However, it continues to be used in "experimental studies" associated with fertility control, and by private physicians in the US who may be using the drug unethically and involuntarily on women. Quinacrine may provide another example in which poor women, particularly women of color from developing and developed countries are being used as guinea pigs in the name of advancing reproductive technology.

In 2007 manufacturers, doctors and policy makers promote these methods to young and poor women of color. Judges still mandate that some convicted women take Depo-Provera as part of their punishment. For many women, these methods of birth control are not a "choice." Government and industry are devoting substantial resources to developing methods to limit the reproductive activity of women of color and poor women, for example by new immunological contraceptives and chemical methods of sterilization such as Quinacrine. By challenging profit driven birth control, by objecting to the practice of subjecting women's bodies to unethical testing, and by organizing against high risk and adverse side effects from "fool proof" contraceptives, we are seeking reproductive justice that secures the safety of women, and ensures our physical, spiritual and emotional well being.


To learn more about the "What You Need to Know about Your Birth Control" Campaign, visit:



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Reproductive Justice Issues

What is Reproductive Justice?
Reproductive Justice in Our Communities
Parenting and Giving Birth
Abortion and Birth Control
Sex Education
Access to Reproductive Health Care
Reproductive Technologies
Spirituality and Reproductive Justice
Sexual Health, Anatomy, and STD's