National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

India Bans Notorious Sterilization Drug

BY Joseph Esposito

August 30-September 5, 1998 Issue | Posted 8/30/98 at 2:00 PM

 

WASHINGTON—Quinacrine, a chemical pellet used for sterilization, has been banned in India. Although no government has officially approved Quinacrine, it has caused more than 100,000 sterilizations in the Third World, about one quarter of them in India.

The pellets, which are inserted into the uterus to burn and scar a woman's fallopian tubes, have been distributed in Asia, Latin America, and Middle Eastern countries by two Americans, Stephen Mumford and Elton Kessel. The largest number of sterilizations have occurred in Vietnam; India ranks second.

Catholic teaching prohibits sterilization. In addition, there are significant side effects of Quinacrine — including possible ectopic (tubal) pregnancies — and the potential link between the drug and cancer remain unclear. Poor women often are tricked or forced into the painful procedure, which is done without the use of anesthesia.

The Wall Street Journal and the Register published extensive reports on Quinacrine earlier this summer (see “Population Control Advocates' Sterilization Program Exposed,” July 5-11). The Journal article is thought to be directly responsible for Sipharm Sesseln AG ceasing production of the drug. The Swiss pharmaceutical firm has been the world's sole manufacturer of the drug. Mumford and Kessel are seeking a new producer.

The Population Research Institute (PRI) of Falls Church, Va., has strongly opposed Quinacrine. In expressing support for the Indian government's action, Stephen Mosher, president of PRI, said, “For years, experimenters in Quinacrine have been hiding behind the letter of the law, which did not forbid the use of this chemical, to experiment on tens of thousands of Third World women in their attempt to develop the ‘perfect’ population control drug.”

Chile, another country where Quinacrine sterilizations have been carried out, also banned the drug recently. Speaking of both countries' action, Mosher added, “PRI applauds this action, and hopes that other countries throughout the world will take similar steps to outlaw this dangerous practice.”

Franciscan Father Germain Kopaczynski of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston, also expressed approval. Quinacrine, he said, “is a bad thing for women's health. The notion of using women as guinea pigs is wrong.”

In addition to his grave concern about the practice of sterilization, the priest continued, “There has to be a better way to improve the quality of life for women without subjecting them to the very real risks of life and limb on the part of so-called American fertility experts.”

India's action, which took place Aug. 17, appears to completely remove the prospect of any future use of Quinacrine in the world's second-largest country. The new law prohibits the importation, production, and dissemination of the drug. Penalties for violations include imprisonment and fines.

Joseph Esposito is the Register's Washington Correspondent

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