However, the authors of this paper noted that “the potential side-effects on a range of women’s psychological attributes and behaviour have never been investigated by FDA or drug companies." If drug companies and regulators really had the well-being of women and mothers at heart, the authors contended, they would have done clinical trials to investigate the effects of the pill on mate choice, attractiveness, relationship satisfaction, the probability of divorce and the health of children.
In addition to other suspicions that use of the pill is linked to various cancers and cardiovascular disease, these suggestions ought to be unsettling. They imply that the pill – which is freely prescribed for younger and younger women, married or unmarried — has never been thoroughly tested by pharmaceutical companies and has been poorly regulated by government authorities. Yet women have been left in the dark. No one discusses these issues.
Isn’t the answer obvious? The pill has allowed women to be sexually active without fear of falling pregnant. They can choose when to bear children and how many they will have. This has opened up new career possibilities and new lifestyles for them.
So there has effectively been a silent trade-off between reproductive freedom and informed consent. Had more questions been asked, had the psychological and social effects of the pill been thoroughly investigated, it might never have been so widely available, especially for teenagers and single women. The regulators would have imposed more conditions and women would have been much more wary of possible side-effects.
Sex in the City comes with a hefty price tag.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet where this article was first published.