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Female Medical Students In Puerto Rico Were Threatened With Expulsion If They Did Not Participate In Initial Research Trials Of The Pill

Rummage through the bottom of a random woman’s purse, check out her nightstand, or behind her bathroom cabinet mirror, and there’s a high chance you’ll come across a plastic circular dial containing her birth control pills. Today, the pill is used by over 100 million women across the globe, including 11 million women in the United States. For liberal women, the pill’s narrative has been one of radicalism and celebration. The fight for women’s reproductive rights, namely the right for a woman’s access to birth control, has dominated the feminist agenda for decades and practically become its crest.

But long before the pill became a symbol of economic and physical freedom, or even a marketing angle for white women, the scientists behind the little tablet were using it to push their own agendas. Ironically, that agenda was partially based on eugenics and the sterilization of Puerto Rican Women.

After scientists hit a series of walls with the contraceptive pill, Puerto Rico became an ideal setting for scientific trials.

The Crimson

The four pioneers of the pill, including the mother of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, biologist Gregory Pincus, and Catholic gynecologist John Rock, initially came across various roadblocks.

Getting clinical trials off the ground in the U.S. was difficult. In most states, contraception was still illegal and many of the women who did take part in initial studies dropped out because of the severe side effects. Most of these side effects included bloating, life threatening blood clots, mood changes, and depression. Stumped on how to progress in the U.S., the team soon shipped their research to Puerto Rico, where birth control restrictions and anti-abortion laws were nonexistent. Access to contraception, which had been strictly blocked by women in the mainland, was largely due to concern of overpopulation on the island. Pincus and Rock were confident they’d be able to get women on the island to participate in their trial, and believed they would jump at the chance to take part.

Convincing them proved to be the opposite, however. Many of the women dropped out of the study because of the intolerable side effects, leading researchers to begin looking for women they could pressure into participating.

Eventually they began to sign up female medical students in San Juan, forcing their hands by threatening their ability to participate in their medical programs. It came down to two options for them: Stay and take part in the study, and they could get their degrees. Oppose and they could be expelled.

Each month, students faced grueling tests. Tissue was collected from their uteruses and some participants underwent laparotomies – surgical procedures that include large incisions that would expose their abdominal cavity for research.

Once the researchers felt they’d obtained sufficient data, they moved onto their field studies.

San Juan’s Rio Piers neighborhood, a community that consisted of a public housing development for farm laborers, became their target. Of these communities, one collaborating researcher wrote in his notes that “families selected were landless” and considered “to some extent [to be] social problems.”

Gabriela Soto Laveaga, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, admits this practice was a cultural norm for research.

“The regulations were more lax, but also you had this belief that some people could be experimented on: the ‘feeble-minded,’ people of color, the poor,” she tells The Crimson.

Soon enough, researchers had recruited 265 unwitting guinea pigs — women who had been informed of what the pill could do but not of its side effects or that they were participants in a clinical trial.

But similar to their previous studies, researchers struggled to keep participants on the pill. In their paper on the trial, Pincus and Rock revealed that 22 percent of the women involved dropped out because of the pill’s severe side effects. What’s more, three deaths were reported. The women’s bodies were never autopsied or observed to see if the experimental pill correlated to their death.

Despite their findings, the researchers continued to further their studies in Puerto Rico and other areas populated by people of color, including Haiti and Mexico. In 1959, the team pushed for the FDA’s approval of the pill as a contraceptive drug. Soon after the Harvard scientists shipped out and headed back to Massachusetts, the trial’s pill, packaged as Enovid, hit pharmacies.

After months of enduring the trial’s invasive procedures and painful side effects, most of the women who participated were denied the very drug they helped pioneer.

The free pill that they had been given during the trial skyrocketed to $11 a month, a price far out of their reach. To this day, women in Puerto Rico are reluctant to harness the power of the pill. In the most recent survey of contraceptive use in Puerto Rico, 46 percent of women aged 18 to 44 reported being sterilized. In 2008, a survey concluded that 65.5 percent of the island’s pregnancies had not been planned.

More than 60 years after its creation, many women in Puerto Rico still struggle to grasp on to the benefits of the pill. What’s more, the women that took part in those trials largely remain swept under the rug in the pill’s historical celebrations.

H/T: The Crimson, Mic, Chicago Tribune, and Broadly.

Read: Breast Cancer Research Is Preventing More Latinas From Becoming Survivors

What do you think about the Puerto Rican Pill trials? Know someone with a similar story? Tell us in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this post! 

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Are You A Victim Of Abuse? Use This Checklist To Help You Determine The Truth

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Are You A Victim Of Abuse? Use This Checklist To Help You Determine The Truth

There are three ways that abuse can be identified. By the way your partner treats you physically, by the way they treat you emotionally, and by how you feel about the relationship. This checklist of twenty signs of abuse is one tool that you can use to see if you, or someone you know, is a victim of abuse. And remember, more resources for dealing with abuse can be found by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 7233.

1. They have grabbed you and refused to let go.

gabkaphoto / Instagram

This falls into the category of physical abuse. No-one should grab you to make you feel threatened and unsafe. No-one.

2. They have pulled your hair.

Instagram: @theerinblythedavis

This is another form of physical abuse. Sure, a bit of hair pulling in the act of passion is fine. But when it happens as part of an argument, or when your partner is deliberately trying to hurt you or make you feel threatened, that is abuse.

3. They have thrown things at you and/or destroyed your belongings.

Instagram: @beatfreak1996

One way your significant other may try to control you is through your belongings. Throwing things at you and destroying your belongings is designed to hurt you physically and emotionally. Threatening to do so also falls under this category of behavior, too.

4. They have left you with bruises, black eyes, bleeding, and/or broken bones.

Instagram: @veeegooose

While abuse doesn’t necessarily have to leave marks on your body, a sure sign of physical abuse in your relationship is when your partner does leave marks. Research shows that once it happens the first time, a “threshold” of sorts has been crossed, and an abuser is more likely to hurt their partner again.

5. They have threatened to hurt or kill you.

Instagram: @raquelitt

It may not seem like abuse, since there are no physical marks left from a threat to hurt or kill you. However, these threats are still part of the arsenal of tools that abusers use. How? Because these threats are designed to control your behavior, and make you feel powerless. Abuse in a relationship is about the abuser gaining and maintaining power, and death threats are a way of emotionally controlling you.

6. They have threatened to take your children away or harm them.

Instagram: @stephaniemaurasanchez

Even if you have children together, children shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in your relationship. Even more importantly, your children’s safety is non-negotiable: no partner of yours should threaten it. By the way, this doesn’t just apply to children. Pets can also be used to manipulate and control you in a relationship.

7. They have forced you to have sex.

Instagram: @jennylikesjewellery

Sex is not a “duty” to be fulfilled in a loving, equal relationship. Nor should your partner guilt trip or manipulate you into participating in sex acts after you have refused sex. Consent needs to be freely given! It doesn’t matter how long the two of you have been together. Otherwise, it’s classed as sexual assault.

8. They try to control you and treat you like a child.

Instagram: @silvia_almanza

Abusive relationships are about control and power. Part of treating you like a child is making you feel like you don’t have any control in the relationship, or even your life, so that you continue to stay and endure the abuse.

9. They make you feel like you need permission to make decisions or go somewhere.

Instagram: @kreeturefeature

This applies when you feel like you have to text at every moment to update your partner about where you are. And when you can’t spend time with friends or family without getting permission from your partner. This is because abusers commonly try to isolate their partner from other, platonic relationships with other people.

10. They try to take complete control of the finances and how you spend money.

Instagram: @loudmouthbruja

Controlling how money is earned and spent is known as financial abuse. People suffering from this type of abuse are commonly denied access to money by partners for doing simple tasks like grocery shopping. Or, sometimes the abuser decides whether and when their partner is allowed to work.

11. They cannot admit to being wrong.

Instagram: @abs_ter

Part of being in a respectful and loving relationship is being able to say sorry and to admit fault. An abusive partner refuses to apologise, because doing so would threaten their position of power in their relationship.

12. They accuse you of things that you know are not true.

Instagram: @estephaniaabarca

This is about control, and manipulating you. After all, if you’re spending your time trying to prove your innocence, then you’re not going to spend your time planning to leave the relationship, are you?

13. They do not take responsibility for their behavior.

Instagram: @lu.pazmi

The reality is, it’s not too much to ask someone to take responsibility for their behavior – even more so when it’s someone you’re in a relationship with. However, your partner doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior because doing so would threaten their position of power in the relationship.

14. They use “The Silent Treatment” to get their way.

Instagram: @yappaririri

Chances are you may have experienced “The Silent Treatment” before, in elementary school. And that’s where that behavior should stay. An equal, loving relationship is not built on one person using silence to manipulate the other person into conceding a point.

15. They make subtle threats or negative remarks about you.

Instagram: @noshophotography

Of course, there’s always room for some friendly sledging in a loving, respectful relationship. But, it turns into abuse when your partner does this on a regular basis to frighten, or control you. It’s possible they may even pass it off as a “joke”, or say that you’re “overreacting”. But again, if you’re in a loving relationship, then your partner should respect the fact that you’re hurt by a “joke”. They should not continue to make these types of comments.

16. You feel scared about how your significant other will act.

Instagram: @erikakardol

Repeat after us: you should have no reason to fear your partner in a loving, respectful relationship. You should have no reason to fear your partner in a loving, respectful relationship.

17. You feel that you can help your partner to change their behavior.

Instagram: @amnesia.r

But, only if you have changed something about yourself first.

18. You watch your behavior carefully so that you do not start a conflict in your relationship.

Instagram: @cmirandads

An abuser does not abuse all of the time. They maintain a cycle of abuse in the relationship. Things go from being tense, where you feel like you have to watch your own actions, to an incident which involves verbal, emotional, financial and physical abuse. Then, your partner attempts reconciliation or denies the abuse occurred, and the relationship goes into a calm stage. However, tensions will begin to build before long, starting the cycle once again.

19. You stay with your partner because you are afraid of what they would do if you broke up.

Instagram: @msstefniv

In other words, you feel trapped in your relationship because of your partner’s current, or potential, behavior. This can range from hurting you, your kids, your pets, your friends, and your family. Or, destroying your belongings, compromising access to your finances, or hurting themselves.

20. They don’t pass “The No Test”

Instagram: @kaitlyn_laurido

“The No Test” is pretty simple. Observe what happens the next time you tell your partner “no”. This could be in response to being asked out on a date, or maybe doing them a simple favor. Disappointment is a normal response to being told “no.”  However, pure outrage, violence, and/or emotional manipulation is not a reasonable response, and may indicate an abusive relationship.

If you feel that you are experiencing an abusive relationship, please seek help. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 799 7233 for assistance. Please take care if you feel that your internet or mobile phone device use is being monitored.

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.


The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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