A Vaccine Against Pregnancy?

While in Huairou, China, for the NGO Forum of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Sept. 1995, Beverly Whipple, FWHC Executive Director, learned about a new anti-fertility "vaccine." This so-called "vaccine" is one of the newest birth control methods being tested in India, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Sweden and other countries.

The anti-fertility "vaccine" is a good example of what is wrong with population control approaches to contraception. Instead of giving individual women more options to prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted diseases, this contraceptive strategy is designed to be easily administered, to large numbers of women, using the least resources. Unfortunately, programs designed to be easily administered by the government or health program results in contraceptives that are not user-controlled, are potentially unsafe, and are prone to abuse by being administered without full informed consent.

What is the Anti-Fertility 'Vaccine' ?

Also termed "immunological contraceptive" the anti-fertility "vaccine" is a completely new mode of birth control. But unlike vaccines against diseases, which prepare the body to react against harmful germs, this "vaccine" acts against natural physiological substances. It actually reprograms the body's self protection to attack substances that are natural to human physiology.

This "vaccine" works by vaccinating against the female pregnancy hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) which is produced by the fertilized egg just after conception. The "vaccine" contains a molecule in which HCG is linked to a diphtheria or tetanus carrier. When a pregnancy occurs and begins producing HCG, this molecule triggers an immune reaction against it, just as it would against diphtheria or tetanus. The body is tricked into attacking HCG and the fertilized egg.

The term vaccination is a misnomer. Vaccines against disease work by stimulating and increasing the body's ability to defend itself against a specific germ. Worldwide, vaccines have had positive health impacts by stopping the spread of many serious diseases.

Pregnancy, however, is not a disease. In effect, the anti-fertility "vaccine" mimics an immunological disorder. We worry about the long-term consequences of altering the body's immune system causing it to react to a natural human hormone.

Temporarily Irreversible but Unpredictable in Effectiveness

The "vaccine" lasts for about one year. It cannot be stopped or reversed. However, because it takes time for the body's immune response to build up, a woman will not know when the "vaccine" begins to be effective. Likewise, the immune reaction to the linked molecule drops over time, usually about a year, but the woman has no way of knowing when it starts dropping. In other words, vaccinated women will have no way of telling when or whether the "vaccine" is working to prevent pregnancy.

If a woman becomes pregnant during this time, it is unknown how the altered immune state of the mother may affect the baby.

Side Effects

Potential harmful effects include auto-immune disorders, serious conditions in which the body is unable to mount a normal immune response and for which there are no known cures. Allergic reactions and hypersensitivity may also occur because of exaggerated immune response to repeated vaccinations of the linked tetanus or diphtheria. The severity of these reactions may increase dramatically if the "vaccine" is administered over several years.

Informed Consent / Potential for Abuse

Women who are currently enrolled in clinical trials have not been given full informed consent. The consent information they got compares the anti-fertility "vaccine" to anti-disease vaccines without explaining that the anti-fertility "vaccine" alters, rather than enhances, the body's natural immune system response! Women deserve to have a full description of all the possible consequences in the native language before they agree to receive the "vaccine."

Unethical Clinic Trials

International standards of ethics in clinical trials state that human experimentation should only take place if the product being developed offers advantages over existing options. Interference with the complex human immune system for contraceptive purposes is indefensible in the era of AIDS and rising numbers of other infectious diseases.

Who is Funding this Research?

Funding for immunological contraceptive research is provided by the World Bank, the UN Population Fund, USAID, Rockefeller Foundation, US and Canadian governments, and others. The major research teams include World Health Organization, National Institute of Immunology (India), The Population Council (USA), The Contraceptive Research and Development Program (USA), and the National Institute for Child Health and Development (USA).

Designed for Populations - Not for People

The following quote from a leading contraceptive researcher reveals the woman-blaming attitudes in many population control programs. "Immunological birth control methods will be an 'antigenic weapon' against the reproductive process, which left unchecked, threatens to swamp the world."

But we know that the true causes of high birth rates are high infant mortality, poverty, and female illiteracy. To reduce population growth, we must empower women with skills and resources for controlling their own lives, as well as cultural and legal support for women's right to control their lives.

For too many women in developing nations there is no food, no health services, no education -- but there are contraceptives, contraceptives, contraceptives.

Reorientation of Contraceptive Research

Iimmunological contraceptive research to end, and to redirect the research funding toward safe, reliable, user-controlled contraceptives that offer protection against HIV/STD transmission. The decisions to pursue anti-fertility "vaccines" were made without consulting the people for whom the methods were intended; they must be involved. Furthermore, higher priority should be given to improving and making existing barrier methods more widely available.

For more information contact -

Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights
NZ Voorburgwal 32
1012 RZ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel. 31-20-620 96 72 / Fax. 31-20-662 24 50

One fourth of all women live in countries that prohibit abortion.

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