The Dalkon Shield and its dangers have received enormous publicity and at least two books have been written on the subject. The aptly titled Nightmare – Women and the Dalkon Shield, paints a horrifying picture of corporate greed on the part of the manufacturer, A.H. Robins Company. Authors Susan Perry and Jim Dawson discuss at length how adverse medical reports on the Shield’s safety were suppressed and how skillful company lawyers continue to block compensation payments to many women maimed for life. The situation is so bad that one U.S. Judge told Robins,
“Your company, without warning to women, invaded their bodies by the millions and caused them injury by the thousands. You’ve got lives out there, people, women, wives, moms, and some who will never be moms. You are the corporate conscience. Please, in the name of humanity, lift your eyes above the bottom line.” (Judge Miles D. Lord, 1984).
A.H. Robins filed bankruptcy after settling nearly 10,000 lawsuits, costing them $490 million. (They’re not bankrupt, merely using a legal maneuver to try to minimize the cost involved in settling further liability claims.)
Women mutilated by the Dalkon Shield are still launching lawsuits against the company. According to a Vancouver Sun report (September 21), there are 175,000 cases currently in the U.S. courts. Many of them have been launched by Canadian women. A Vancouver lawyer has now started proceedings here against Robins’ Canadian subsidiary on behalf of more than 100 Canadian women who also have suits filed in the U.S. He is seeking to protect his clients in case the U.S. courts dismiss Canadian claims. The Canadian action also names 41 husbands and two children as claiming damages from the women’s use of the Dalkon Shield.
Although the Dalkon Shield has been off the market in both the U.S. and Canada since the mid-70s, its damage is still far from over. Women who have suffered pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), had miscarriages or undergone hysterectomies, or who have discovered they are infertile, may not link their medical problems to their use of the Shield – especially if the problems occur some time after it has been removed. While the Dalkon Shield may well prove to have been the most hazardous IUD, other brands continue to be found responsible for PID and infertility and yet they remain on the market in Canada.
The manufacturers aren’t concerned that their products are damaging women’s health, even causing death. The G.D. Searle Company announced last year that it was removing tow of its IUDs from the U.S. market (one of them, the CU-7, is still sold in Canada). It stressed that the decision was made for financial reasons – the high cost of settling lawsuits – and continued to assert that it had a safe product. Obviously, Searle is gambling that the difficulties of mounting product-liability cases in Canada will long continue.
And many women seem willing to gamble with their health. A recent Toronto Star story (September 29), reported that “a small but steady stream of American women” is traveling to Canada to obtain IUDs, with only one brand left on the U.S. market.
One of the more positive achievements of the women’s movement has been its success in making women more aware of how their bodies work and more assertive in questioning doctors’ paternal recommendations. But this success apparently had a lasting impact only on a minority. Even today, the IUD is consistently referred to as a “contraceptive” when it is, in fact, and abortifacient. It works by preventing implantation of the fertilized egg to the uterine wall, in short, aborting a tiny baby. As Germaine Greet so succinctly puts it, it transforms the womb into a “poisonous abattoir.”
A friend of mine was horrified to find out exactly how the IUD worked. She had it removed, and changed her doctor because, when she asked why he had not explained the IUD properly to her, he replied that he didn’t think it important to bother her with the details. The same woman told me she now wondered how many children she had unknowingly aborted while wearing the IUD. She described changes in her monthly blood flow – occasionally she noticed a “lumpy and thickish” flow but hadn’t realized the possible cause. A pro-lifer, she has had difficulty coming to terms with her unknowing complicity in abortion.
We must insist that these lethal and abortifacient IUDs are removed from sale in Canada – and demand a widespread publicity campaign to educate women using them now. And we must insist that more attention is paid to family planning, which stresses the rights and dignity of all members of the family, instead of polluting or maiming or killing so many of them.