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Women's Birthing Rights, Women's Bodies, Women's Health

“Dear Injurious Physician” — In Memorium: Barbara Seaman, Sept. 11, 1935-Feb. 27, 2008

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Once again, a giant of the movement to liberate women has passed on.  Barbara Seaman, tireless pioneer and principal founder of the feminist women’s health care movement, passed away yesterday of lung cancer at the age of 72.

Beginning in 1960, with second wave feminism still in its embryonic stage, Seaman pioneered patient-centered health reporting.  Under her watch, women were to learn for the first time that they were not receiving the information they needed in order to make good, informed decisions about contraception, childbirth, or breastfeeding (this last during a time when formula manufacturers were boasting that their products were better for children than mother’s milk.)  An engaging and passionate writer, Seaman’s work was sought out and picked up by mainstream women’s magazines – Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle and Bride’s Magazine.  Her essays appeared in major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post.  From time to time, she served as a consultant for television programs which dealt with health care issues. 

In 1967-68, she won a Sloan-Rockefeller Science Writing Fellowship at the Columbia University School of Journalism.  The birth control pill had by now been in use by American women since 1960, and 12.5 million women were taking it.  It had been the first prescription medication for otherwise healthy people.  Believing and hoping they might be able to ensure they would not become pregnant after years and decades and generations of pregnancies against theirs and their foremothers’ will, women eagerly asked for, and took, “the pill”.

But doctors, drug manufacturers and health care educators knew beginning in the very early ’60s that the pill was having dangerous side effects:  Strokes.  Blood clots.  Embolism.  Possibly cancer.  Seaman researched these side affects and their harm to women, she listened to the stories of women and believed them, and in 1969, she published her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill.  Her book resulted in U.S. Senate Hearings into the safety of birth control pills which hearings came to be known, in the by-now burgeoning feminist movement, as the “Boston Tea Party” of the women’s health care movement.  Young radical feminists, led by Alice Wolfson, repeatedly disrupted the hearings, demanding to know why patients themselves had not been called to testify before the Senate, why women were being used as guinea pigs, and why there were  no birth control pills being developed for men.  The result of the hearings, which were widely publicized by mainstream media, was that for the first time in history, a warning was included with a prescription drug.   Perhaps even more significantly, for the first time, “informed consent,” so far as medical procedures and drugs, had became a national issue.

After her second book, Free and Female, was published in 1972, Seaman was acknowledged by the Library of Congress as the author who raised sexism in healthcare as a worldwide issue.   Her third book, Women and the Crisis In Sex Hormones, persuaded the U.S.  Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare,  to impanel a government task force on an estrogen called DES (diethylstilbestrol), which was causing cancer in the daughters of women given it by their doctors to prevent miscarriages.  Seaman served on this panel.  She went on, in 1975, to co-found the National Women’s Health Network with Alice Wolfson, Belita Cowan, Mary Howell, M.D., and Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D.   Later she spoke to doctors assembled at Harvard Medical School, confronting them over the minuscule number of women doctors and medical students.

Around this time, and in the context of the backlash  against feminism of the 80s,  Seaman began to be viewed as more than a journalist,  more than an interesting, independent, challenging voice.  Now she began to be perceived as a real threat to the status quo, to big pharma, to big establishment bucks supporting big establishment institutions.  Mainstream magazines for which she had been writing columns, including Ladies Home Journal, Omni, and Hadassah, fearing the loss of advertising dollars from pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishment, began to blacklist her, fire, or censor her.  Doors began to close to her and finally slammed shut.  As was true of by far most Second Wave radical feminist leaders and point women throughout the nation — who were similarly blacklisted, fired, censored, battered and beaten by campaigns designed to keep them from continuing to speak the truth, continuing to make real change for women —  Barbara Seaman was silenced for a while.

She, and a generation of Second Wave leaders, turned their attention to other things.

Those vested in a patriarchal status quo, or who had axes to grind of various kinds, or who were simply sexists, lied about these leaders, published and circulated their lies, and the lies were believed, including by academics and the nation’s educators, resulting in a whole generation who never knew these women existed or what their lives and work meant to all freedom- and justice-loving people.

Seaman’s book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, was reissued in 1995 in a 25th anniversary edition.  Science Magazine described it as the book that fueled women’s health activism, patient information and a “blossoming of women’s health research.”  C.J. Levinson, on the other hand, the doctor assigned to review the book by the Journal of the American Medical Association,  blew it off as ”a strange book not particularly recommended,” going on to state, ”I cannot in all good conscience recommend it for either the public or the profession.”  Those who put their faith in Levinson’s review would have had no way of knowing, of course, that Levinson’s employment was through a consortium supported by at least two manufacturers of birth control pills and contraceptive hormones, Syntex and Wyeth Ayerst.  

In 2000, Seaman co-authored For Women Only:  Your Guide to Health Empowerment, with Gary Null, a critic of patriarchal medicine.  In 2003 she authored The Greatest Experiment ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth, a sequel to her book Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones, written in 1978, a book which won a Matrix Award.  Everything she foresaw and warned about in her 1978 book ultimately came to pass and culminated finally in the removal of hormone replacement therapy from the market in 2002.   Over two decades after Seaman penned her warnings and what she had learned in her research, doctors acknowledged — or were forced to admit — how dangerous HRT really was to women.

In recent years, Seaman has been working with Laura Eldridge on on two upcoming books, The No Nonsense Guide to Menopause, now available for pre-order, and The Body Politic: Dispatches from the Women’s Health Revolution, also available now for pre-order.    She had planned to publish the 40th anniversary edition of the Doctors’ Case Against the Pill in 2009.

I have dedicated this long post to the memory of Barbara Seaman, not only because she deserves to be honored, although she does, but because in so many ways, her story is the story of so many great women leaders of the last 50 years.  So many of the most brilliant, the brightest, the most committed were summarily taken out when what they had to say was too honest, too true, and therefore, too threatening.  We  live in a time in which even among feminists and progressives, to challenge or critique patriarchal medicine or the pharmaceutical industry or patriarchal birthing practices or obstetrics and gynecology is to be attacked — by feminists and progressives!  We  live in a time in which feminists and progressives so often treat these institutions as sacred cows, somehow beyond criticism, beyond reproach.  This despite a tidal wave of evidence of how women have been harmed by doctors and drugs.

I purchased an article by Barbara Seamans published in 1972, two months before I gave birth to my oldest son.  I am reprinting it here in its entirety in honor of her life work on behalf of all women.  It is an article that is as true and important and — sadly — as necessary as it was in 1972 when Seamans wrote it.   I’m afraid young women and young feminists will mourn her passing without knowing what she did, what she stood for.    I’m afraid they’ll be sad that she is gone, but will turn to the institutions she fought and challenged all of her life for help, not understanding what she believed in.  And then, they will have to reinvent the wheel.  Refusing to allow our great leaders to be erased is central, I believe, to our ongoing commitment to women.  We simply cannot let their life’s work be forgotten.

Rest well, Barbara Seamans.  You were absolutely amazing.

Thanks, Sis, for the heads up.

In 1957, pregnant with my first child, I told my doctor that I planned to breast-feed.  “You wouldn’t make a good cow,” he said.  To his mind that settled the matter, for he gave me a laxative that went straight to the milk and almost finished off my son!

In 1960 my oldest daughter was born “by appointment.”

All went well.

In 1962, pregnant again, I chanced to fall into conversation with a public-health pediatrician.

“When do you expect the baby?” she asked.

“My doctor is inducing her on October 15th.”

“Why?”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s dangerous,” she explained.  “Go back and ask him why he’s doing it– and he better have a good reason.”

I went back and asked him.

He was hoping to go on a cruise in late October.

If I had known then what I know now, having babies would have been a lot more enjoyable.  Having miscarriages — and abortions — would have been a lot less terrifying.

Some women want to let their doctors “do the worrying for them,” but for those of us who don’t it has been extremely difficult to get honest health information.  Women are making a valiant effort to correct the situation.  In recent months, several important health books by women have appeared and there are more to come.  I am thinking, for example, of  “The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality,” by Dr. Mary Jane  Sherfey; “Why Natural Childbirth,” by Dr. Deborah Tanzer and Jean Libman Block, “Vaginal Politics,” by Ellen Frankfort; “Our Bodies Ourselves,” by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective; “Women and Madness,” by Dr. Phyllis Chesler.  There will even be a book telling women that radical mastectomy is not necessarily the treatment of choice for breast cancer.

These books have been and will be be misunderstood in many quarters.  We do not expect men to be endlessly fascinated by the ins and outs of feminine plumbing, but it hurts when our own sisters reject us.  A reporter for the New York Times complained that she was tired of hearing feminists badmouth their gynecologists.  Why don’t they go to a woman doctor, she asked.  She might as well have said, “Let them eat cake.”  According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, only 3 percent of its members are female.  Furthermore, there are some male chauvinists among women doctors too.

Let those who doubt that women have cause to be angry at their doctors leaf through the ads in almost any medical journal.  One of the worst offenders sells a widely and often irresponsibly used tranquilizer.  A shrewish-looking woman is depicted and the message seems to say:  Doctor, get her off your back…Get her off her husband’s back…Shoot her up and shut her up with our product.

And let the skeptics, please, when the time comes, look up the January 1973 issue of the American Journal of Sociology.  It will contain a study by Diana Scully and Pauline Bart on the images of women in gynecology textbooks.  Even if the medical student starts out as a nice kid, he is bound to be a screwed up sexist by the time he finishes memorizing these gems:

”The traits that compose the core of the female personality are feminine narcissism, masochism and passivity.” (Dr. James Robert Willson, 1971.)

”The frequency of intercourse depends entirely upon the male sex drive. ..The bride should be advised to allow her husband’s sex drive to set their pace and she should attempt to gear hers satisfactorily to his.”  (Dr. Edmund R. Novak et al, 1970)

”Of all human beings, he [the gynecologist] is made in the image of the Almighty, and if he is kind, then his kindness and concern for his patient may provide her with a glimpse of God’s image.”  (Dr. C. Russell Scott, 1968).”

Amen  

– Barbara Seaman, New York Times, published December 2, 1972

PBS American Experience Special:  The Pill

Interview with Barbara Seaman

Eight Jewish Feminists Who Changed the World (from Reform Judaism Magazine)

Jennifer Baumgardner remembers Barbara Seaman

Phyllis Chesler’s Elegy for Her Friend, “Babz”

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Discussion

26 thoughts on ““Dear Injurious Physician” — In Memorium: Barbara Seaman, Sept. 11, 1935-Feb. 27, 2008

  1. Very, very interesting! I was not aware of this woman’s great work, thank you for your post. “Reinvent the wheel” indeed.. how painfully frustrating this is. I consider myself blessed to have been raised in an alternative health household and to have always done my own research before making informed choices. Many of my peers had similar upbringings. Nowadays I take my toddler to playgroup and socialize with women 20 years younger than me and it pains me no end to see that they are utter sheep in regards to their birth choices. Perhaps the culture has retained some skepticism that was lacking in the 60’s but otherwise it’s a matter of each generation rediscovering that the doctor is not God.

    Her work on the pill would be dismissed by readers today with, “oh but they’ve fixed the pill now, the old ones were too strong.” Many people really and truly believe that the pill is *good* for you. That it protects you from uterine cancer. That you need it or your periods will be painful (because of course we can never ever have any pain) or heavy (because that’s icky). In this HIV sensitive age it is no longer seen as the vehicle for a woman’s sexual freedom but as almost a vitamin necessary for a woman’s menstrual health. I am not exaggerating, this is how people promote it’s use these days. Every forum I am on has posts from young women asking for help with what pill they should be on, describing HORRIFIC symptoms related to the pill they take.. non-stop bleeding, highly irregular bleeding, migraines. The replies are full of advice of which pill to switch to, how to take each pill. No one ever suggests that the woman does not need to a daily dose of synthetic hormones, that there are other ways of dealing with period pain and contraception. “The Greatest Experiment”, that is SO TRUE and it shows no signs of abatement. I am frequently regarded as a dinosaur when offering any counter commentary. I am boggled at how the pill is now viewed as a health supplement–what a coup for big pharma now that the sexual revolution is no longer the sellling point.

    Posted by Arietty | February 28, 2008, 10:14 pm
  2. Hi there. I really liked your post. I’m leaving a comment to ask a question though. I write a blog called the Hero Workshop which is the internet presence of a program I run for kids.

    For Women’s History Month I’m going to be posting a female hero every day. I am encouraging people to contribute their heroes to the project. I’d love to see Barbara Seaman on that list.

    You can submit heroes at http://www.thejanuscenter.com/heroworkshop/herosubmission.htm and there’s a link there to see the current Gallery of Heroes.

    Posted by Matt Langdon | February 28, 2008, 10:17 pm
  3. Thanks Heart. Done with the dedication and herstory accuracy only you can deliver.

    I have comment from Barbara on the “Boston Tea Party” which was posted to a private listserv. I think other posters here would love to read that, but I need permission, so if I get it, I’ll drop them in tomorrow.

    One thing I remember about Barbara (whom I’ve never met in person) is how gentle she was, what a source of surprising herstory nuggets, and how enthusiastic she was about learning there were blogs like this. She loved your post on Lorraine Rothman. I am so happy, now, that I was able to bring Women’s Space to her.

    Posted by Sis | February 29, 2008, 2:38 am
  4. I feel so sad.
    I never thought she would die.
    We are losing so many important freedom fighters from that generation. I cringe when I hear Amy Goodman mention the
    next, and the next and the next…
    Barbara Seeman was revolutionary.
    I feel so sad as these incredible activists pass, because it seems that we have so few to replace them with.

    Posted by shy virago | February 29, 2008, 3:36 am
  5. I think Barbara Seaman was even too revolutionary for NWHN. This is a shock.

    Heart, where did you hear HRT was off the market? I wish! Millions of women in this country are still taking it. Was it perhaps one particular formulation that was pulled in 2002? The Women’s Health Initiative landmark long-term study proving the dangers of HRT was released in 2002. I covered three news stories last year on my blog about HRT, which I described as the disastrous wonder drug that refuses to die. Also, your link above is to a profile of the company whose stock symbol is HRT.

    Posted by Aletha | February 29, 2008, 8:12 am
  6. The death of Barbara Seaman is currently at the top of the Ms. Feminist Daily Wire, and NWHN has prominently posted a tribute on their home page.

    Posted by Aletha | February 29, 2008, 8:35 am
  7. You’re right, Aletha, it’s not off the market completely and I should have been more specific. The protocols changed and doctors stopped prescribing it automatically for perimenopausal/menopausal women. Last time I checked the guidelines were that it should be prescribed for very brief periods of time, like 3-6 months, and only for women who are experiencing specific symptoms, and not at all for women with various contraindications. What ended was the practice of all-HRT-all-the-time because a woman entered menopause!

    You know, on the one hand, it’s great that Ms and NWHN have posted tributes. At the same time, do the individual women posting these tributes to Seaman even know what she stood for, really? Do they really even *admire* her for it? This is what gets to me. She was kicked to the curb for a very long time *including by feminists*. If they’re just going to give lip service to the work she did, then go back to doing obeisance to male doctors, letting themselves be induced (which MOST pregnant women do these days! really frightening), demand HRT, demand “elective” c-sections, then again, whatever. This is close to home for me because this was an arena of my own activism for decades — women’s birthing rights. What I see all around me is feminists who seem to have no clue what so many of us fought so hard for, and especially someone up front the way Barbara Seaman was, taking *all* the hits from *all* the heavy hitters.

    Posted by womensspace | February 29, 2008, 4:41 pm
  8. Heart,
    Could you talk about what happened to Barbara? I didn’t know that she was treated badly by other feminists.

    Posted by shy virago | February 29, 2008, 6:07 pm
  9. shy virago, I don’t know of specific instances and specific feminists who may have treated her badly? What I do know is that she pretty much went silent so far as women’s health issues for over a decade, maybe 15 years, following being shunned or blacklisted by the mainstream. She was not, that I can see, published so far as health issues, including by feminists during that time. I might be wrong about this and would be happy to be corrected if I am. I have had occasion to read e-mail forwarded to me from a loop she was part of in which she was having to go to great lengths to explain who she was, provide her credentials, to presumably feminists who apparently didn’t have any idea who she was or what she had done and who were therefore dismissing what she had to say (liked they’d lost their minds, argh, this stuff gets to me.)

    On a deeper level, I know she was treated badly because I pay attention to what feminists say, and I see that in gigantic numbers, they line up and do whatever patriarchal medicine prescribes, they bring their children to doctors and do whatever to their children that the doctor says, especially, they *consistently defend* patriarchal medicine and its practices, and also especially, they attack those of us who challenge patriarchal medicine. To even *bring up* certain subjects amongst feminists is to be attacked, including so far as pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and the prescribing of, and ingesting of hormones, areas Seaman dedicated her whole life to.

    Posted by womensspace | February 29, 2008, 6:24 pm
  10. I won’t be posting anything Barbara wrote in a private listserve, however (un)private the comment was. However, I’m going to write to her daughter(s) so they know there it’s there, that I wish they would ask for it. It is mportant perspective and comment on women’s struggles in her own voice.

    Here’s something Barbara sent to a friend, who was allowed to post it on a public forum. I’ve tried to fix the format, but if my fix doesn’t hold, then my apologies. I’m writing the intro:

    It makes me very sad to see the foundation for health
    policy advocacy, which came from the early women’s
    movement, is not known. So I went searching for some
    things which I want to make sure are not lost.

    This is from 2003 on a usenet newsgroup

    The context was someone had mentioned her work, or
    posted something of hers, and others dismissed her,
    said they’d never heard of her. Who was she? Why was she so ‘anti’ birth control?

    She was invited by one of the posters to respond to those accusations. She didn’t post there herself, but sent a response to that woman. Here is what Barbara sent to that woman, who posted it.

    I wanted you to see it because Barbara is so terrific here.
    She’s mad. I think she wondered what the heck!? Where
    does women’s {his}tory go?

    ##

    Barbara Seaman responding to women who don’t know who she is; accuse her of being anti-birth control. Circa 2003.

    >Again, I don’t know anyone among the people I talk
    to, or read, who says that we should ban estrogen, or
    that pharmacologists are evil. Yet for 43 years, since
    Enovid, the first oral contraceptive, was approved in
    1960, and I began to report that many of my readers
    seemed to find Enovid too strong to tolerate, that
    some had blood clots, or friends who’d had blood
    clots, that their doctors were pooh-poohing the
    adverse reactions and saying it was “all in their
    mind” (sometimes because they were “afraid of sexual
    freedom”) I have been accused of being AGAINST the
    Pill, or being in league with the Pope, or being
    paranoid about the drug industry, or even being a
    communist because I was “against big business. ” Isn’t
    that grand? You criticize Searle for failing to take
    some extra months to establish a safer dose range for
    a new drug, and they declare you an enemy of the
    state.. The Pill enjoyed a “diplomatic immunity,”
    based, on fears of world wide overpopulation and
    famines. Even when such beliefs proved to be
    overblown, and even after the first Pills were
    recognized to have ten times the hormone levels
    required for contraception, and even when the FDA
    warnings were placed on the Pill, and even when the
    dosages were brought way down and the bloodclots
    greatly diminished, I still had these ugly, fantasy,
    extremist charges and names laid on me. In fact the
    more I was proven correct, the more the name calling
    escalated in some quarters.

    In the 1990s, some of the hormone manufacturers
    pulled out the same kind of name-calling and innuendo.
    Their latter-day version of “diplomatic immunity” was
    that my colleagues and I were stupid, We “didn’t even
    know that far more women die of heart disease than
    cancer.” (Apparently THEY didn’t know that cancer
    takes more women at a younger age, and steals more
    YPLLs, (which stands for Years of Potential Life
    Lost, a term coined by someone at the CDC.) In any
    case they cast us “noncomplient” hormone skeptics as
    enemies of the public health and welfare, scaring
    women out of the wonderful heart disease preventive
    that they claimed estrogen was. And some doctors got
    as crazy about this as the population control
    extremists were in the 1960s and 1970s.

    My friend Carol Ann Rinzler went to a new gyno when
    her old one retired. Carol is the author of a book
    published nearly ten years ago called Estrogen and
    Breast Cancer. (The forward was written by Dr. Graham
    Colditz of the Harvard Nurses Study) So the new gyno
    tried to put Carol on estro.Carol said no. The gyno
    asked her why. Carol said she had no uncomfortable
    symptoms that called for estro, and she didn’t want to
    increase her risk of cancer.

    When Carol left the office the gyno went running after
    her trying to press the rejected Premarin prescription
    in her hand. When Carol again rejected it, the gyno
    cried out, “Dont call me when you get your first heart
    attack”.

    It wasn’t us, the cautionary journalists and health
    advocates who were unfortunately carried away. It was
    the other side. More than a few of the gynos had a
    craze for estrogen that resembled Tulipmania. So, I
    don’t understand why some intelligent people, who
    should know better, still dump on us. They’re shooting
    at the wrong target. And I really meant it when I said
    I wish they could say where they got some of these
    ideas, such as the “banning” of estrogen. They always
    said that about the Pill too- that I wanted to ban it.
    To the contrary, it was I who advocated patient
    information labels on the Pill and other estrogen
    products…and then all prescription drugs.

    PS I gave this list the email address of the FDA
    specialist who was selected to explain the new
    labeling on estrogen products to reporters ,and answer
    all our questions. I thought you might want to check
    with her, Dr. Lisa Rarick, to see if the FDA has found
    any convincing evidence that patches are safer than
    pills. It saddens me to see that some of you still
    rely on theories, and aren’t demanding the quality
    clinical trials that such popular products for men
    always receive. Whatever the theories about the liver,
    the placebo trials, so far, between patch with estro,
    and patch without, show more adverse heart events in
    those getting the active patch. Its about a 29-30%
    increase, similar to oral estrogen products.

    Opinions and experiences found here are for
    informational purposes only and are not intended to
    replace professional health care.”

    I sure would appreciate it if you would identify me by
    my books and activities, so your members can see that
    I’m not whistling Dixie. I’m Barbara Seaman. My
    forthcoming book (June, Hyperion) is called THE
    GREATEST EXPERIMENT EVER PERFORMED ON WOMEN: Exploding
    the Estrogen Myth. My previous books include The
    Doctors’ Case Against the Pill (1969); Free and Female
    (1972) Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones (1977)
    Lovely Me-The Life of Jacqueline Susann (1987) I’m
    cofounder of the National Women’s Health Network
    (1975). Our charter says we may take no money from the
    pharmaceutical industry. I’m a National Judge for the
    annual Project Censored Awards. I’ve been a columnist
    or contributing editor at Brides Magazine, Family
    Circle, Hadassah Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, Omni;
    I was also contributing editor for an ABC daytime
    newsbreaks program, hosted by Hal Linden, called FYI.
    It won an Emmy for special programming.

    Last night (Monday, Feb 24) a documentary on the birth
    control Pill was aired as part of the American
    Experience series on PBS. I appeared toward the end
    along with a photo of my original Docs Case book
    cover, just before the news footage of young women
    demonstrating at the Senate Pill Hearings in
    1970, complaining that no patients were testifying.
    They changed all that. Today there are patient
    representatives everywhere, at Congressional
    Hearings, and on Advisory Committees at FDA and NIH.
    The leader of these militant women who gave us “the
    Boston Tea Party of the Women’s Health Movement” is
    Alice Wolfson.”

    Posted by Sis | February 29, 2008, 6:46 pm
  11. I actually enjoyed a few conversations with Barbara back in 2000 as a young breast cancer patient (diagnosed at age 27). She had been put in contact with me through another activist friend, and I found her insight into the risks associated with the use of hormones (HRT and the Pill) to be incredibly validating. This was a few years before the results of the Womens’ Health study confirmed a genuine increase in the risk of breast cancer from HRT,etc. Since breast cancer is an estrogen related disease, I immediately had my own suspicions upon my diagnosis that the use of the Pill may have been related but I didn’t know how much research Barbara and other had done with the issue, the controversies, or the entire history of the development of the Pill until I talked to Barbara. She inspired me to get out there and do my own research, she was gracious and comforting and I admired her greatly. What a loss. My condolences to her family.

    Posted by M. Bellenger | February 29, 2008, 6:50 pm
  12. I urge you all to get, at least, The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women. The science, and the history of the science and the women’s struggle is there. Barbara was a meticulous researcher and writer. I’ve only read parts, but I’m diving in again. It’s complex. And there is so much there that isn’t anywhere else. Just glossed over, lost and attributed to some man, or doctor, or politician. “They” made the pill better for us. No Barbara Seaman et al did. Women did.

    I’m sending you another article Barbara wrote Heart. I can’t link it.

    Posted by Sis | February 29, 2008, 7:08 pm
  13. Thanks for that, M. Bellanger, and Sis, thanks *so much* for posting what you have.

    Isn’t that grand? You criticize Searle for failing to take
    some extra months to establish a safer dose range for
    a new drug, and they declare you an enemy of the
    state.. .. even when the FDA
    warnings were placed on the Pill, and even when the
    dosages were brought way down and the bloodclots
    greatly diminished, I still had these ugly, fantasy,
    extremist charges and names laid on me. In fact the
    more I was proven correct, the more the name calling
    escalated in some quarters.

    This is what happens to radical feminists EVERY SINGLE TIME. The more it becomes evident that we are onto something, that the facts are on our side, the uglier the namecalling, the more “extremist” we are said to be, and what are you saying, that NOBODY ANYWHERE should [insert whatever here].

    they cast us “noncomplient” hormone skeptics as
    enemies of the public health and welfare, scaring
    women out of the wonderful heart disease preventive
    that they claimed estrogen was.

    Yes! In the same way that we are “enemies of the public health and welfare” for saying that birthing women should not be induced, should not be given unnecessary c-sections (this is major surgery with all of the ramifications, hello), for saying that women’s uteruses should not be removed just because, for saying that babies should not be dosed with who-knows-how-many antigens for disease, when they weigh 7 pounds and are newborns, for suggesting it’s wrong to diagnose HIV/AIDS on the basis of symptoms, it’s wrong to dose with toxic pharmaceuticals on the basis of those diagnoses, it’s wrong for doctors to hand out prescriptions for psychiatric medications to people in the way they do, so that a third of the population, for god’s sake, is medicated for something, it’s wrong to does human beings with horrific amounts of hormones for the sake changing their sex, and on and on it goes, and when it becomes very clear that we were onto something, again, the attacks simply *increase*. It’s horrifying, really.

    When Carol left the office the gyno went running after
    her trying to press the rejected Premarin prescription
    in her hand. When Carol again rejected it, the gyno
    cried out, “Dont call me when you get your first heart
    attack”.

    Isn’t this so what some doctors do! Like the doctor who told me, when I rejected his advice to stop breastfeeding one of my babies who was jaundiced (not badly jaundiced and nearly all of my kids had some degree of newborn jaundice, I knew it would pass), told me, “Your baby could DIE.” Get off me.

    It wasn’t us, the cautionary journalists and health
    advocates who were unfortunately carried away. It was
    the other side. More than a few of the gynos had a
    craze for estrogen that resembled Tulipmania. So, I
    don’t understand why some intelligent people, who
    should know better, still dump on us. They’re shooting
    at the wrong target.

    Draw circles in red around it, highlight it, ohmygod, SO SO true. How long, as feminists, do have to endure this stuff. It’s to be expected from the mainstream, but coming from *feminists* and progressives? What sense is to be made of that?

    Posted by womensspace | February 29, 2008, 7:14 pm
  14. And isn’t it just what they are doing to us over GARDASIL?

    Posted by Sis | February 29, 2008, 7:21 pm
  15. It’s hard to find our story online, but here’s something from the PBS website on the program “The Pill”

    The press release sent out by the feminists involved in the protest. Until they burst into the congressional hearings, NO WOMEN were speaking or presenting on the pill: none were allowed!

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/filmmore/ps_declaration.html

    Posting it all because I never trust these things won’t disappear:

    WOMEN’S LIBERATION Press Release

    MEN: TAKE THIS PILL NOW. THINK ABOUT IT CIRCULATING THROUGH YOUR SYSTEM AS YOU LISTEN TO THE REST OF THESE HEARINGS.

    CAUTION: THIS PILL MAY CAUSE:

    * cancer of cervix, uterus, breast
    * stroke
    * high blood pressure
    * blood clots
    * loss of hair
    * sterility
    * vaginitis
    * genetic defects
    * loss of libido
    * diabetes
    * depression
    * and about 40 other side effects

    WHY are no women testifying?

    WHY are no women on the subcommittee?

    WHY is the profitable relationship between doctors and drug companies whitewashed by the press and in these hearings?

    WHY are drug companies deliberately witholding available information on side effects?

    WHY is it safer for a man to go to the moon than for a WOMAN to take the pill?

    WHY is our government’s solution to world hunger to control population rather than the redistribution of resources?

    WHY are these hearings not discussing the issue of abortion on demand? *

    WHAT kind of reparations will be made by the white male medical establishment to women who have been used as guinea pigs in this mass experiment?

    We are not opposed to oral contraceptives for men or for women. We are opposed to unsafe contraceptives foisted on uninformed women for the profit of the drug and medical indistries and for the convenience of men.

    Washington Women’s Liberation
    P.O. Box 13098
    “T” Street Station
    Washington, DC 20009

    *3 deaths/yr./100,000 women on pill from embolisms alone.

    0.4 deaths/yr./100,000 women on other contraceptives supplemented with safe abortion on demand.

    Posted by Sis | February 29, 2008, 8:36 pm
  16. I hate what they are doing around Gardasil. I had a bad feeling in my gut every time I heard about it. Compared to European countries, we immunize way too much. Some of our immunizations are considered poisonous in Europe.

    I don’t want to get into too many details right now, I want to honor Barbara Seaman and what she did for all of us. But I do have two points:

    1) Why was the male pill killed before clinical trials were begun, in 1998?
    2) Why are they advocating now that CHILDREN get flu vaccines every year?! They say it will help keep the flu from contaminating adults.

    This makes me crazy. If we want healthy people we need to worry about our food supply, making fruits and vegetables affordable, putting nutrients back into the soil, making our bodies strong.

    Thank the maker for women like Barbara Seaman and all strong women here at womensspace.

    Posted by shy virago | February 29, 2008, 10:56 pm
  17. AP recently did a story on famous midwife Ina May Gaskin, who is making a movie called The Orgasmic Birth. She says it is the only way she can think to market natural childbirth to this generation. The article states the US rate of Caesarean sections is 31 percent! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23239361/

    USA holds other dubious distinctions as well, such as direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (banned outright everywhere else except New Zealand and Australia?), and being tops in number of recommended vaccinations and the cost of health care.

    I do not know how to make sense of feminists trusting the medical establishment. Perhaps it is too scary for many to come to terms with just how misogynistic it is, so they cling to blind faith. Nothing man has created deserves blind faith. As far as orthodox medicine is concerned, womanhood itself is a disease. It was not so long ago science deemed women inherently irrational. It has been propping up the male presumption of superiority all along.

    I think HRT has made a comeback since newer studies came out claiming it is primarily dangerous to older women. The protocols Heart mentioned are not necessarily being followed. Women with severe symptoms may derive some benefit, but for most, the risks outweigh the benefits.

    Posted by Aletha | March 1, 2008, 6:05 am
  18. Doctors don’t care about wymmyn

    Posted by Hecate | March 2, 2008, 7:39 am
  19. It baffles me that womankind does not realize how misogynistic is the entirety of the man-made medical “profession” which has pushed folk healers (wise women) off the stage in favor of big pharma’s punishments masquerading as health care. I’m almost 55, and never cross the threshold of any so-called medical doctor’s dark door. Maybe if more of us, from young to old, stopped listening to and watching the brainwashing (TV and elsewhere), we’d stop believing doctors and drug companies were there to help us. Doctors as minor deities and drug companies as saviors are pitched as a prevalent propaganda.

    Do people not realize that before the 20th century, folk healing prevailed, not to mention the metaphysical approach pioneered in the 19th century by an American woman, Mary Baker Eddy? Sure, then the healing ways were filtered through a bible-based mind set and yet another church established, but the metaphysical methods gained popularity because they were more effective than allopathic medicine.

    People are not being well served by drug companies and so-called “modern” medicine. Why is this even debatable? Just research some morbidity and mortality statistics from the CDC. Or read about the “super-bugs” killing people in hospitals because antibiotics have created a bacterial nightmare. Or visit somebody dying more from the chemo than from the cancer. I just don’t get why anybody would not rather take their chances on their own with the greater cosmic Power than be treated for dis-ease by today’s doctors and “legal” pill-pushers. But then, I never let TV’s poison infect my mind, so I’m free to disbelieve the lies and find my own Truth. What if more of us reclaimed our minds? Maybe then the infinite Mind would heal more of us and the issue of health insurance be as moot as the fear of falling off a flat earth.

    Posted by Judy Best | March 3, 2008, 12:57 am
  20. Thank you, Judy. You put it better than I ever could have. I don’t go to doctors, either.

    I just saw a very powerful documentary on natural childbirth and how quickly that is waning in this country…it was made by a NYC filmaker who became pregnant during the filming.
    Has anyone else seen it?
    The home-birth scenes brought tears to my eyes, as I saw women cathcing their own babies!

    Posted by shy virago | March 3, 2008, 2:58 am
  21. Thank you, Heart, for this. I did not know about this woman. The degree to which our herstory is routinely erased is just horrifying. I am an educated woman, a dedicated feminist who was raised by a feminist. I routinely read feminist material, as much as I can squeeze into a day. I am an activist. I even have a degree in Women’s Studies. And you know what? Every day I discover just how ignorant I still am!! It’s astonishing. It’s heartbreaking. And I REALLY try – so imagine how little of this stuff most women know. No wonder they follow Doctor Daddy’s advice.

    Ever heard of Dr Vicki Hufnagel? I have a prolapsed uterus, and I found her work when I was looking for information about whether or not to have a hysterectomy for that. She was a voice against most hysterectomies and other modern medical disasters for women, and she also publicly charged a well-known California OB/GYN with routinely sexually harassing female med students. Eventually, a woman with a history of mental illness brought a complaint to the Ca medical board saying Hufnagel had “refused” to do her hysterectomy (yeah, because that’s only her whole deal, if she doesn’t think it’s necessary and you still want a procedure, she tells you to go elsewhere). So the medical board investigated her and stripped her of her license to practice – and do I have to tell you that Dr.SexualHarasser, who had earlier promised to “get” her, was on the board that decided to take away her license??? Then, as she was preparing to defend herself via appeal, her soon-to-be ex-husband took her computer, her files, some relevant archived patient records, her uncompleted manuscripts and destroyed it all before he moved out.

    So now, she is trying to run a clinic just over the border in Mexico. Most women, however, aren’t really going to cross the border to see someone who no longer has a license, plus their medical insurance won’t cover that. I think her clinic is going broke, and I believe she is, with good reason, bitter, angry, and…well, I’ll leave it at that.

    I’d love to see her for my condition. She has a great protocol for repairing what I have without yanking out body parts, including the fact that she has someone massage a woman’s legs the whole time she’s doing surgery so the woman doesn’t end up with sore legs for weeks, which is the norm with other docs.

    So frustrating. All of it.

    Thanks again, Heart.

    Posted by ceejay1968 | March 3, 2008, 3:14 am
  22. Hey, Judy Best, so true re all of the diseases and infections people get pretty much only in hospitals! Especially these horrific staph infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.

    shy virago, one of the biggest discouragements for me is the way patriarchal birthing practices have reasserted themselves over the past 20 years especially with women just going along. I had my last four babies at home. Actually, one was born in the car– HA. I didn’t know I was in labor, but I seemed a little twinge-y, so my midwife said come on over, she’d take a look. Halfway there, I had a baby in the back seat! It was really spectacularly wonderful, blue sunny sky, beautiful fat-cheeked baby, a couple hours later my partner, I, and our new babe were enjoying celebratory root beer floats at our favorite restaurant. :D

    My 11th birth was so peaceful and wonderful. I knew she would be my last. She was born in my bed with one of my adult daughters on one side, helping me push, and a teenage daughter on the other side, helping me push. I could not have asked for a sweeter experience. It pains me so so much knowing that women are who want children are missing what some might find to be a truly amazing experience.

    I blogged about patriarchal birthing practices a while ago, though the post has an odd name — do a search on “Goddesses on Parade” and you’ll pull it up. I have been a natural birth/midwife-assisted birth/home birth activist for 30 years now and have seen the way patriarchal doctors oppose what they cannot control and the way anybody who opposes the status quo, including male doctors, gets the boot.

    Say, ceejay, I remembering hearing about Vicki Hufnagel but it’s been some time, thanks for telling me all of that, I’m going to do some poking around about her.

    Posted by womensspace | March 3, 2008, 3:43 am
  23. Heart, the birth with your two daughters present sounds incredible. And giving birth in the car and going out for root beer afterwards – if that couldn’t convince someone about natural childbirth, I don’t know what could.

    Posted by shy virago | March 3, 2008, 8:01 am
  24. In the next few days there’s going to be a huge media rush on a study which has just been completed showing HRT in post menopausal women who were taking it for medical reasons had a 12 per cent increase of cancers over women on placebo in the years immediately following the study.

    During the study there was an increase in cardiovascular events for women on the HRT arm. Remember how HRT was supposed to save women from cardiovascular disease?

    This is the male centric medical profession about 40 years behind Barbara Seaman et al.

    It’s in your inbox Heart.

    Posted by Sis | March 3, 2008, 9:40 pm
  25. heart, thanks for your fine post and the way it has encouraged readers to speak up and out.

    the loss of barbara seaman has been just as invisible in the mainstream press as all women’s health issues we ourselves know are important. that’s why it was so remarkable that barbara kept at it for so long.

    some of us who knew her, who are contemporaries are still making trouble. if any of you live in new york city, nyc NOW has a new senior issues committee. i’ve cajoled them into working on an update of a 1977 project, “ten questions to ask your doctor.” our goal is to empower older women to be assertive with doctors on their own behalf.

    did you know that barbara was a poet as a young woman? that she ghost wrote for dr. joyce brothers? that she had a great sense of humor? sadly the n.y. times obit was very flat. please visit my blog, http://www.alittleredhen.com for a personal remembrance–and why we need to talk about Safe Sex for women over 50.

    in sisterhood, naomi

    Posted by naomidagenbloom | March 4, 2008, 8:48 pm
  26. COMMENTS AT A MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR BARBARA SEAMAN
    March 6, 2008

    I’m Phil Corfman. I first met Barbara in 1970 when she and her colleagues interrupted my presentation to Senator Nelson about what NIH was doing in regard to the safety of the pill. As Alice Wolfson just told you, these were the women who in time founded the National Womens Health Network.

    I’d like to tell a story that I think tells a great deal about Barbara’s advocacy, her drive, and her courage.

    In the late 60’s, when Barbara’s book was about to raise alarms about the pill that lead to the Senate hearings, the FDA called what I believe was its first major advisory committee and asked it to study the problem with a series of meetings over several years and make detailed recommendation. Because I worked on this issue at the time at NIH, I was appointed a member of the committee.

    Such meetings then were held behind closed doors but the buildings were open. One morning, when we broke for coffee, we found two of Barbara’s friends, Alice Wolfson and Judy Spellman, outside the door, sitting on the floor. There was no place to sit. Barbara had told them where the meeting was being held and how to break in.

    We asked the group why they were there and were told that they wanted to join the meeting because they knew we were talking about the safety of the pill and they had something to say.

    Although the FDA staff objected, the committee caucused and agreed – without dissent – to ask them to join us. They said they wanted more information on the pill and that all women – and men – had the right to have all the facts. The committee agreed, and our next version of the pill information booklet included a specially prepared section for patients. Thus were started the “PPIs” – patient package inserts – that are now provided with almost all drugs in this country. Other countries have followed suit so millions of people have benefited from this initiative.

    A second result of their attending the committee meeting was to augment awareness by the committee – and hence the FDA and drug companies – of the ridiculously large doses of the drugs provided in the pill at that time, an issue highlighted in Barbara’s book. The result has been a gradual and steady reduction in the doses, with many lives saved. Indeed, pills are now considered to be so safe that there is a move on now to sell them over the counter.

    A third result was that Barbara and her fellow conspirators made a closed FDA meeting de facto open, and in time our meetings were open to the public. Indeed now – several decades later – almost all the many FDA advisory committee meetings that have come into existence since then are open.

    Safer pills. Patient package inserts. Open FDA hearings. Not bad.

    I have another story to demonstrate that Barbara was something else.

    Those of us who are lucky to be old enough will remember the remarkable David Frost show with Barbara and Allan Guttmacher – the highly regarded guru of family planning – arguing about the pill on national television. Barbara made Allan so angry when she implied that gynecologists aren’t so smart after all that he walked out of the studio with Frost shouting, “Dr. Guttmacher! What’s wrong! Why are you leaving?” as Allan marched down the aisle.

    Now as to Barbara as a person.

    She was an unfailing good friend to me and my wife Eunice – three Oberlinians – until Eunice died in 1980 – and then to Harriet Presser – my partner for over 25 years – and a fellow – very outspoken – feminist.

    Barbara’s concern was always about you. Never about her. I realized this especially with her friendship and support of my daughter Caris – a successful New York actress who became disabled and died last year. Barbara attended many of Caris’ performances – including the one-women show she wrote and performed – though disabled – in Maryland and at The Flea theater in Manhattan. And Barbara came all the way to Washington for Caris’ memorial service last winter. I realize now she was already quite ill.

    Barbara was also really smart, much to the dismay of her adversaries. She was a remarkable combination of a scholar and – at times – a maddeningly persistent advocate. It’s a blessing that the next generation – and I’m thinking especially of the staff of the National Womens Health Network – continues her work.

    Finally, I’m honored that Abby Lippman, Anne Rochon Ford and other Canadian colleagues – all members with Barbara of Biojest, a Canadian group of health advocates – asked me to read a few words since they can’t be here today.

    Barbara’s relentless crusading for women’s health and drug safety had major impacts beyond the borders of the USA, and many of her friends and colleagues in Canada mourn her loss with you. In this country, too, her name is well known and her work treasured.

    Her daring critiques, her courageous persistence in the face of major efforts to silence and discredit her, provide a model for many and gave us all strength to persist in demanding that women’s voices be heard and our concerns taken
    seriously.

    Others have noted Barbara’s great support of and deep generosity to others, and it’s probably the case that she “tooted a horn” for Women and Health Protection and other Biojesters better than we ever could for ourselves.

    As one of us has said for us all: please “add our Canadian flowers to the wreaths being laid” by women’s health activists in the USA and elsewhere at the memorial for this great pioneer of the women’s health movement. We are all in her debt.”

    Philip Corfman gave permission for this to be posted here.

    Posted by sis | March 9, 2008, 12:32 am

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