A pill to treat people who aren’t sick? Yes, Ricki Lake, it’s called preventive care.


She’s wearing glasses so she must be serious right?

Otherwise, if you simply listen to what Ricki Lake is saying about the birth control pill, you might be tempted to conclude that she’s joking.

Lake opposes the birth control pill and is raising money for a documentary to make other women fear the Pill, too. Her documentary, Sweetening the Pill, is based on the book of the same name.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#870001″]Risk of death at homebirth is more than 500X higher than the risk of death from The Pill.[/pullquote]

As usual, Lake is profoundly wrong about the science.

In a piece published elsewhere [Time.com and here] I’ve addressed the deeply sexist impulse that leads Lake to oppose history’s greatest technological aid to women’s emancipation.

In this blog post, I’d like to deconstruct just one of the many disingenuous claims among the myriad.

This still from the fundraising video is typical of Lake’s bad faith approach:

drug to treat people who aren't sick

It characterizes the birth control pill as the “first medical drug to treat people who aren’t sick.”

Umm, Ricki, we have a name for treatments that are designed for people who aren’t sick:

It’s called preventive care.

Let me explain in simple terms:

Preventive care, not surprisingly, is designed to PREVENT bad outcomes.

What bad outcomes does The Pill prevent?

In addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, the Pill:

  • Prevents death from childbirth
  • Prevents death from abortion
  • Prevents death from pregnancy related blood clots
  • Prevents death from pre-eclampsia
  • Prevents death from postpartum cardiomyopathy (one of the fastest growing causes of maternal deaths)

But preventing unwanted pregnancies is not the only health benefit of The Pill:

  • Reduces menstrual blood loss, decreasing the risk of anemia.
  • Reduces dysmenorrhea, painful periods.
  • Prevents the severe pain and fertility destroying potential of endometriosis.
  • Prevents endometrial cancer and precancerous lesions from unopposed estrogen production in women who have irregular cycles.
  • Prevents death from ovarian cancer.

We offer women The Pill even thought they are not sick because we want to prevent them from getting sick.

And the Pill is hardly the only medication that is prescribed as preventive care. Doctors recommend aspirin to prevent heart attacks and to prevent further damage when a heart attack does occur. They recommend statins to reduce blood cholesterol levels and prevent heart attack and strokes. One of the most popular medications of all time, Viagra, is routinely prescribed for men who aren’t sick; they simply want to have sex.

Do you have a problem with Viagra, Ricki, despite the fact that it’s only purpose is to promote sexual pleasure for men through intercourse?

No? So why do you have a problem with The Pill, whose main purpose is to promote sexual pleasure for women through intercourse by removing the debilitating fear of unwanted pregnancy?

Sounds like a double standard to me.

Sure The Pill has risks, but it also has benefits and those benefits dramatically exceed the risks.

Let me put in in terms that you can understand, Ricki:

The risk of death from thrombo-embolism (blood clots) in women taking The Pill is in the range of 1/100,000.

The risk of death of a baby at homebirth is more than 500 times HIGHER (5.6/1000, 800% higher than comparable risk hospital birth).

And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that preventive benefits of The Pill mean overall mortality in women using The Pill is lower than overall mortality in women not using The Pill.

If homebirth is safe, how can The Pill be dangerous?

You can’t have it both ways, Ricki.

The truth is that The Pill saves lives and Ricki Lake’s efforts to demonize The Pill will almost certainly lead to preventable deaths.

Medication to treat people who aren’t sick? Yes, Ricki Lake, it’s called preventive care.