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Contraception and women`s health

Posted June. 09, 2012 07:20,   


American biologist Gregory Pincus surprised the ovulation of rabbits and rats with the chemical compound norethindrone in 1952. By joining hands with gynecologist John Rock, Pingus produced the contraceptive pill, which is hailed as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. The pill deceives the pituitary gland by disguising the body as pregnant. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the pill in 1960, women could be freed from the fear of unwanted pregnancy.

Early oral contraceptives produced the adverse side effects of nausea and vomiting due to a high concentration of hormones, and also raised the mobility rate of breast cancer. Women, however, experience fewer negative adverse effects after reducing hormone levels to less than 10 percent. Oral contraceptives were classified as over-the-counter drugs when Korea pursued birth control, but this goes against the global trend. Though the safety of contraceptives has markedly increased, they are not free from adverse side effects. Unlike the “morning-after pill,” which is taken once after sex, women should take ordinary oral contraceptives every day if they want to prevent conception. This is why such pills need the highest level of safety.

The Korea Food and Drug Administration has classified the morning-after pill as an over-the-counter drug and ordinary oral contraceptives as prescription medicine. The Korean Women’s Association United blasted the decision, saying, “Classifying oral contraceptives as prescription medicine is tantamount to removing women of their right to make a decision on pregnancy.” Unions of female college students hold differing views. While Korea University opposes the classification on the grounds that it violates a woman’s right to make her own decisions on sex, Yonsei and Hanyang universities welcomed the move, saying it will reduce abuse of the pill. No evidence has proven that contraceptives and contraception education lead to sexual promiscuity of youths, however. Pregnancy while in school can make it difficult to continue studies.

A woman`s right to make their own decisions on their bodies and health is invaluable. In the U.S., Canada and most European countries, women buy oral contraceptives with a prescription. In Sweden and Norway, which have a more liberal attitude toward sex, oral contraceptives are classified as prescription medicine but teenagers have the right to change their doctors. When parents are informed of their daughter changing her doctor in those countries, they know that she has begun having sex. This is a health system that protects a woman’s health and privacy by preventing an unwanted pregnancy. Korea also needs a similar system.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)