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April 04, 1976 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-04-04

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Page Three

page four-Kael
page five-

Number 22

April 4, 1976





praises, present

controversy, future dangers?

FOR OVER 30 YEARS, diethylstil-
bestrol, more commonly known
as DES, has been administered to
women for a vast array of gyne-
cological ills. For those who were
pregnant and those who wished
not to be, DES was a miracle drug
comparable to aspirin in its versa-
tility. Until 1971, women were tak-
ing it religiously during early preg-
nancy in the hopes of averting
threatened miscarriaage. At the
same time, others ingested the
drug in the form of the morning
after pill in order to prevent preg-
nancy. Those who chose not to
breastfeed their babies were also
administered DES because it sup-
presses the mother's ability to pro-
duce milk.
It is impossible to ascertain how
many women have taken DES.
However, it is known that at least
three million took it for the pur-
pose of averting miscarriage. In the
past five years, the drug has be-
come the center of a national
medical controversy - its effec-
tiveness is believed dubious and
some of its possible side effects are
seen as potentially cancerous.
"Every drug that has its effect
has its side effect," says Dr. George
Morley, director of the Cancer
Service at University Hospital. Al-
though he does not fully endorse
this statement, it is one often em-
ployed by doctors in explaining
their liberal drug-prescribing prac-
Susan Ades is a Daily day editor and
staff writer.

.tors, endorses the use of the
morning after pill for those who
do not have a medical history
which would make it exceedingly
dangerous. However, he acknowl-
edges that, DES does have long-
term, unpredictable, and possibly
serious consequences when used as
a miscarriage preventative. After
the drug was dispensed to preg-
nant women for three decades--
between 1940 and 1971 - it was
discovered that not only is DES in-
effective in averting miscarriage,
but that it can be very harmful
when exposed to the female fetus.
Since 1971, over 250 women un-
der 30 have contracted a rare form
of vaginal cancer which doctors
link to their exposure to DES dur-
ing the early weeks of fetal devel-
opment. The cancer, known as
clear - cell adenocarcinoma is of-
ten accompanied by a benign ab-
normal cell condition called adeno-
sis. Although only an estimated .2
percent of the roughly three mil-
lion women whose mothers took
DES while pregnant have been
diagnosed as cancer victims, re-
search reports estimate that any-
where up to 90 per cent of the
"DES daughters" havethe benign
adenosis with no sign of accom-
panying cancer. One question
hovers like a hawk over all those
concerned: does the adenosis har-
bor the potential to develop, either
spontaneously or byinducement
with exogenous hormones, into a
cancerous growth?
"The tissue changes interme-
diate between the adenosis and

adenocarcinoma have

not been

seen but their presence is assum-
ed," explained Dr. Johan Eliot,
Medical Director of the Ann Ar-
bor division of Planned Parent-
THERE IS NO apparent cause for
alarm in women with exclu-
sive adenosis, although it is im-
portant that they routinely check
up on the site of abnormality -
especially since the road ahead is
new and paved with mysteries. It
is the reality of the woman bat-
tling a rare form of cancer which
consumes life quickly and often
unyieldingly that transforms the
DES dilemma into a horror story.
And though research on male
offsoring is still in its germ stages,
some investigators, according to
Dr. Tommy Evans at Wayne State
Medical School, feel that there is
reason to susnect a percentage of
"DES sons" will suffer repercus-
sions resulting from fetal expo-
sure to the drug.
"There's a vestigal remnant of
the vagina in males yet we've had
no evidence yet of malignancy
there in sons." Evans says. "But
there have been reported some
cases of sterility though I have no
evidence of it coming out of
Wayne yet."
All eyes have been cast uoon
"DES offsnring" out of coneern for
their physical well being. Perhaps
not enough thought has been giv-
en to easing the emotional tension
locked up in the consciences of so
many innocent but guilt-ridden
mothers of DES daughters. How
do they cope?

"You don't," answers one De-
troit mother who requested that
her name be withheld. "There was
a time when if there was a woman
who wanted a child and she was
afraid she would (spontaneously)
abort and she wanted the baby
badly enough, she'd swallow any-
'MY DAUGHTER has said 'it's
not your fault'," the woman
continues, "but the way I feel is
not going to be changed and all
the reassurance in the world is
not going to matter. It's the result
of something I swallowed and I
feel a great responsibility for what
my daughter has had to go
through.. ." she paused and drew
a long, labored breath ". . . a par-
ent always feels responsibility for
a, child."
DES is still being prescribed for
various purposes by private phy-
sicians, clinics, and hospitals at
their own discretion. Dr. Morley,
who calls himself a "therapeutic
nihilist," says he "can't buy" the
liberal drug - prescribing prac-
tices of some of his colleagues. He
does, however, sanction strictly
regulated emergency use of DES
in the form of the morning after
pill (MAP). He bolsters his pro-
MAP position by asserting, "I don't
think exogenous (synthetic) hor-
mone therapy is going to cause an
individual (including h i g h e r
risk "DES offspring") problems in
the future." He points out that
"should the morning after pillnot
work then the patient's offspring

A University Hospital doctor
uses a colposcope

Brownmiler backstage: A reluctant public performe


herself, Susan Brownmiller is
fumbling through her purse for a
cigarette. She just spent two hours
on stage with only a glass of wa-
ter to raise to her lips. Lighting
her Carlton and grabbing an emp-
ty styrofoam coffee cup to use as
an ashtray, she plops herself down
on a rigid, straight-backed dress-
ing room chair, and runs her free
hand through her wavy, shoulder-
length hair.
A clingy orange turtleneck and
loose-fitting brown corduroy pants
compliment her thin, lanky body.
Crossing her legs, wrapping her
foot around her calf like the star-
let on the late night talk shows,
she drags long and hard on the
quickly burning cigarette.
She doesn't look like the woman
who, minutes ago, so vehemently
accused "men as a class" of con-
sciously using rape as a threat
to keep all women in a constant
state of fear.
she addressed her audience and
entertained questions in a smiling,
but authoratative manner. She was
Susan Brownmiller, author of the
definitive study on rape, Against
Our Will. Confident, quick, self-
assured on stage, she's the con-
temporary expert on rape, the
strong feminist, the woman with
all the answers. Backstage, the
chain-smoking, the crossing and
uncrossing of legs, and the pen-
sive silences punctuated with loud
bursts of laughter erode the tough
She's still the expert on rape,
but she's not so sure about Susan
"I'm trying to gain control over
my life," she confesses, tossing her
arevinv haiir and tilting' her chin

never bored working on my book,
but I'm bored in planes all the
time now. Also, it's not easy com-
ing into a new situation. This is
my second speaking engagement
this week, and it's a tremendous
strain on my personality and sense
of self, and sense of privacy be-
cause I think I am essentially pri-
vate and shy as most of us are.
And having to perform, having to
have an 'on' personality is not
something that I envisioned for
She starts to explain how she
doesn't need the college-lecture-
circuit money, then a new thought
registers in her eyes and her ex-
pression shifts.
'Alright. It's important for
women to have models.' And so
therefore, if I stand there and I'm
a strong woman, that's good. Let
them see that ... but I don't really
know if it's worth it for me. I want
to get back to the typewriter, and
I wish I had something new to
write about. I'd like to travel. I'm
going to do that. I'd like to see
my old friends. And that's what
I've been thinking about a lot
"I knew precisely who I was
when I was writing the book," she

says, dropping the word "precise-
ly" like a judge drops a gavel to
the bench. "Now I'm not really
sure. I'm just not sure."
No sooner have the words left
her lips when Howard Lerner, Fu-
ture Worlds student coordinator
and her escort for the day, tromps
into the dressing room.
"Well, Susan, we have to get
trucking. Dinner time."
"It can't be dinner time," she
protests. "I just had that sand-
wich you gave me a couple hours
ago. I don't believe it's dinner
time, it's only 5:30, Howard."
"Yes, but it's a good fifteen min-
utes before we get over there, and
a half hour to wait for the meal
and . ."
"Can't we do our waiting here?"
she interrupts. "It's not going to
take two hours to eat."
"You said you wanted to sit
down and take it easy for a
while," he reminds her.
"Yeah, we're sitting down and
taking it easy. Nice, calm, quiet,
non - threatening discussion. I'm
not on." She looks up at him and
her eyes are pleading.
He's not giving up.
"I just thought I Would give you
a break between dinner and that
thing at eight."
"Oh, no. This is fine, please, if

you don't mind. This is alright."
Lerner concedes and takes a seat
on the floor.
to the predominantly female
audience was carefully planned
and flawlessly executed. Her dic-
tion was keen and her east coast
intonation effective. Not a word
was out of place, not a statement
unsupported. But the unprepared,
unrehearsed backstage Brownmil-
ler is not the slick deliverer of
feminist philosophy her public ap-
pearances suggest. She'll defend
her thesis, but she defends it re-
"What troubles me most is that
I say everything best in my book,"
she says, justifying her earlier re-
luctance to answer a question from
a member of the audience regard-
ing a chapter in her book entitled
"A Question of Race." "My best
lines were carefully worked out.
It took me' a long time to write
that chapter and I didn't want to
blow it by saying something that
people are going to misinterpret.
One mis-statement and I'm damn-
ed. 'There she is. We knew she
was a racist,' " she says, imagining
an unfavorable response.
See AUTHOR, Page 4

Brownmiller: 'I'm trying to gain control over

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