The Contraceptive Pill Outlawed in Japan, 1965

Anthony Zimmerman
Published in Japanese
February 1965
Reproduced with Permission

There is much confusion about the contraceptive pill. Some say it is an ideal solution for overpopulation problems; others deny this. Some say that the Church forbids its use, others disagree. Some claim its use is medically safe, others again deny this. Here is a list of questions and answers about the PILL which may help to clarify the present situation.


The Welfare Ministry has thus far refused permission to market oral contraceptives.


The matter is uncertain. Two years ago the Welfare Ministry commissioned a number of experts to study the pills, and to conduct experiments. The preliminary reports indicated that there were some undesirable medical side effects, but they are neither so serious nor so general that sale must be forbidden under all circumstances. The Pharmaceutical Advisory Board recommended to the Minister of Welfare, on October 30th of this year, that sale should be permitted under physicians' prescription and as an experiment, during a period of two years.

On the other hand, the Planned Parenthood Federation has advised the Welfare Ministry not to permit sale of the pill, at least until more is known about its effects. The Federation has published its opposition widely, and there is considerable opinion in the nation now against sale of the pill. The Welfare Ministry therefore feels pressure from both sides, Thus far it has not permitted sale of the Pill.


For medical., moral, and social reasons. In a bulletin of July 28th, the Federation gave the following medical reasons:

It must be said that research groups have not yet come to definitive conclusions in reference to the fact that this medication will be taken by healthy women for long periods, putting them into a condition of permanent pregnancy. There is no definite conclusion in America either about the influence which this medicine will have on persons who use it over two years. In Japan, the Gynecologist Research Group, the Endocrine, Research Group, the Heredity Research Group, and all the related research groups, have not yet issued their conclusive group reports. On the other hand, there is a very large number of scholars in Japan which are giving themselves pause and are having doubts, because the use of this medicine destroys the natural hormone balance of the body and makes an artificial situation. Moreover, in the data of the tests which the Welfare Ministry conducted, side effects were not completely ruled out.


The national birth rate is already too low for the welfare of this country, and the pill would only aggravate the problem. Then also it might contribute to juvenile delinquency. Here are excerpts from the bulletin of July 28th:

The birth rate of our country has become the lowest in the world. There are many among the nation's intelligentsia, and also members of the National Diet, who are deeply worried about this situation. Why should it be necessary, then, to permit sale of this medicine which is 100% effective as a contraceptive, and will lower the already too deeply depressed birth rate still more, just at this very time when measures to correct the excesses arising from the Eugenics Protection Law are being considered?

The time when the government will have to take the lead in encouraging people to have more children is not far off, judging from the present situation of the birth rate and the net reproduction rate...

We believe that the medical and pharmaceutical viewpoint alone should not be decisive in answering this question, since the yes or no of the Government in regard to permission to sell the Pills have a profound influence on the good order of society, on morals, and on the future of the nation.

Will not the imperfections of our medical and pharmaceutical systems invite a flow of this supposed-to-be reserved medicine from drug stores to the public at large, which will spur crime, juvenile delinquency, etc.? Shall we not expect a poison already rampant in America to invade Japan; namely the so-called "sexual intercourse sport"? ...Moreover, we cannot fail to consider what influence this will exercise on family life in general in our nation, in view of the present national psychology of loss of self control and of rampant egoism.


Pills have been used widely in America for over two years now, but all is not well. It is very remarkable that the manufacturer of the most popular pill, Enovid, has itself warned doctors to be careful. In April Searle and Company, makers of Enovid, sent a brochure to American doctors, stating that they should not prescribe the pill for patients who have cancer of the breast or of the genital tract, since experts are debating whether the pill acts as an exciting agent of cancer in these areas. Secondly, they should not prescribe it to patients who have liver dysfunction or Jaundice. Thirdly, not to women who have had previous thrombophlebitis or Pulmonary Embolism. The Company also stated that it should not be used more than three years until there is more certainty about its safety, giving the following reasons:

Since the bulk of clinical experience with Enovid-E does not extend beyond three years and owing to any unanticipated effect on the ovaries, uterus, pituitary and adrenal glands or other body organs, duration of use longer than ... three years must await the results of continuing studies.

Multiple detectable functional changes in the endocrine system with particular reference to the thyroid, adrenal and pituitary glands and perhaps the ovary occur in women treated with Enovid-E. The long term effect on the pituitary, adrenal and thyroid glands and on liver metabolism is not yet clearly established although observations made of long-term users of Enovid-E reveal some changes .....

The Company also cautioned about various other effects, as was noted in an article of the Catholic Shimbun, of November 29:

Women receiving Enovid should receive periodic vaginal examinations and any cervical erosion which might be found should be treated. It stated that it is likely that Enovid will suppress lactation if administered to a nursing mother. Some cases of psychic depression and of epileptiform convulsions have been reported. Also fibroids in the uterus have increased in size under Enovid medication.

Women who have nausea from Enovid should take antacids or a glass of milk with the pill, according to Searle. Because of reported menstrual complications it would be advisable that women on long term medication have a pelvic examination annually or more frequently. Headache, dizziness, diarrhea and abdominal pain have been reported occasionally. Also masculinization, such as lowering of the voice, growth of body hair, etc.


The Oregon Medical school claimed that Enovid was found to speed the development of cancer present in laboratory animals. This was quickly contested by Searle. Nevertheless a public health official said that he had heard a prediction that birth control pills might be pulled off the market after six months in America because of various dangers, especially cancer.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Medical Committee considers the pre-existence of fibromyoma in women as reason to rule out use of the pills. Conservative figures indicate that at least 20% of white women and 30% of the Negroes have such tumors (fibromyomas) in the uterus. Doctor Herbert Ratner Director of Public Health, Oak Park, Illinois, USA, writes as follows about this danger:

These tumors (fibromyomas) are responsible for at least one third of all gynecological admissions to hospitals. Since the majority of these tumors are not recognizable clinically, and since the oral contraceptive is a powerful stimulator of growth in these tumors, it can be expected that many women participating in this program, particularly negro women, will develop enlarged tumors, leading to gynecological complications, additional office visits, hospitalization and surgery.

Dr. Edwin DeCosta, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern Medical School, Evanston, Illinois, USA reports that undesirable effects are very disturbing to both patient and physician." He mentions a poll of physicians with the following result: "About half of these physicians find the side effects such a nuisance that they discourage the use of oral contraceptives." Mr. George Cadbury, a British expert on family planning education for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said that he had recently polled doctors at World Health Organization headquarters concerning the pill, and found that "no single doctor I asked would advise his daughter to use it."

A poll was taken of the medical advisory committee of Planned Parenthood of Chicago in January, 1962. The majority stated that they would not prescribe this drug to their wives or daughters.

Norway has stopped sale of the pill because of the reported cases of thrombophlebitis, a serious medical complication, which proved fatal in some cases. England is proceeding cautiously for the same reason, and on an experimental basis.


Studies are being made in this field, and it is still too early to know the full truth. But a report in the medical journal PHYCHOSOMATICS, on the effects of oral contraceptives on the sex lives of wives, showed that many husbands studied therein became disinterested, or impotent, or hostile.

Dr. Monte Jay Meldman, psychiatrist, reported in the journal of the Academy of Psychosomatics recently that both husbands and wives can undergo changes in attitude when the wife starts using oral contraceptive. In the husband's case the change is sometimes for the worse, he said. It was his opinion, however, that the marriage is made happier in more cases than unhappy, by use of pills. Doctors must therefore carefully watch their patients, he felt, since some will have psychiatric problems. He cited cases of impotency, loss of interest, complete breakdown.


If the pills damage health, their use would not be permitted unless there be proportionate reason, from this viewpoint alone, even if they were not forbidden other reasons.

However, the pills are also forbidden for use as contraceptives because this is intrinsically evil in itself, according to the present teaching of the Church. Pope Paul VI has stated that this rule continues to bind us, and that so far no sufficient reason to change has been found, although the matter is under study.

[Addition, August 2000: Three years later Pope Paul VI issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae in which he re-affirmed the constant teaching of the Church against contraception. Rumors had been rife when Pope Paul called for a study on the Pill, that use of synthetic hormones might bring about a regulation of erratic cycles; for example, a claim was circulated that if a woman took the Pill for two weeks, then stopped, ovulation would follow as a rebound effect, and come exactly three days after use of the Pill had been stopped. The rumor was wrong, of course. Perhaps one reason why the Pope consulted members of the Papal Commission on Birth Control was to obtain exact knowledge about the manner in which the Pill operates.]