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Birth Control Pill

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The Little Pill That Could

In a time when women had no freedom other than being housewives and baby factories, one woman took a stand for every woman's rights as a human being. In the late 1800s birth control, a term coined by Margaret Sanger in her newspaper, Women Rebel, in 1914, was considered to be immoral by most religious groups. Sanger pleaded with society to implement some form of birth control so as to give aid to her fellow women who were looked on as nothing more than objects that would bend to the will of man.

The birth control pill was the brainchild of Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick, who later petitioned Gregory Pincus to give life to their dreams of a "simple, cheap, and safe contraceptive" (Sanger qtd. in Brown). Pincus then recruited Russell Marker who had changed a cholesterol from sarsaparilla roots into human "pregnancy hormone," progesterone. Marker's work was later taken up by Frank Colton. "It was Colton's version of the birth control pill that, in 1954, Pincus and gynecologist John Rock chose to field-test" (Brown). After clinical trials on 6,000 women in Puerto Rico and Haiti, the first commercially produced birth control pill, Envoid-10, was marketed in the United States. The birth control pill is a combination of estrogen and progestin that prevents ovulation and pregnancy.

The birth control pill, commonly referred to as "The Pill", was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960. According to David Allyn, it was herald as a "revolutionary invention, a medical triumph over human biology". By 1962 1.2 million women were taking The Pill, 5 million within five years, and by 1973, about 10 million (LEDA). The Pill has made a great and positive impact on today's society. The birth of The Pill opened new opportunities for women other than just being a housewife or a mother. It allowed them to have new career choices. The Pill changed the way people think about relationships or sexual relationships and also brought with it many health benefits for women.

With the introduction of The Pill came more career opportunities for women. Before the introduction of The Pill, women, as a whole, were slaves to their bodies, "Poor, weak, wasted, frail women, pregnant year after year like so many automatic breeding machines" (qtd. in Brown). Most women were compelled to either choose the role of housewife or mother because the act of having sex would almost assuredly bring with it the birth of a child. The birth of a child would then narrow their possibilities of any career choices they may make. In a sense, having sex was almost like playing Russian Roulette with their lively hood.

When the birth control pill was finally introduced it gave women the control of their own reproductive cycles and gave them the power to choose if they wanted to be a mother or not. It gave them more sexual freedom and helped shape their lives. "It decoupled sexual intercourse and procreation more than any other form of birth control. Now that it wasn't inevitable that a woman would have children every time she had sex, she could reconstruct what it meant to be a woman" (Professor Roger Robins qtd. in Cohen). The Pill "caused an increase in women's investment in education, their probability of working, their income levels and their self-reported 'life satisfaction'" (LSE). These new career opportunities are just one of the positive things that the introduction of the birth control pill has brought to society.

The Pill also changed the way people thought about sex in the sense that it changed the way people looked at relationships. "It had a profound impact on how we think about sex, that the value of pleasure, intimacy and bonding can be separate from childbearing. As we think about relationships differently, it's opened the door for other people to be empowered and accepted. The gay rights movement, for example, is winning success because of the changing perspective of the meaning of relationships and sexuality" (Professor Robins qtd. in Cohen).

It was once thought that only married couples should have sex. It is still thought that today, but the idea of it is not as strict as it was before the 1970's. Before the 1970's, women who had sex out of wedlock were considered harlots, whores or a loose woman who was something as sinister as a monster lurking in the bedroom closet. With the introduction of the birth control pill women became more sexually liberated. Sex was no longer something only a man could do or have without the life altering change of being pregnant. Sex was something natural. Sex was something that every living creature did and seemed to be created to do.

In the earlier parts of the 20th century unwed women who ranged in ages 18 and up were looked upon with pity, but since the introduction of The Pill we have seen that being a single woman is something that can be gratifying in itself. The Pill opened society's collective eyes and showed them that sex was not something just for married couples. This new way of thinking is also considered a positive side-effect of what the birth control pill has done for society.

The Pill also brought many health benefits to women. "The Pill offers a dramatic reduction in the lifetime risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancer, with a lesser impact on the incidence of colorectal cancer. Other conditions that are significantly less common in women who have taken The Pill include disease, benign ovarian cysts, toxic shock syndrome, acne and perhaps even rheumatoid arthritis and some thyroid diseases. The modern-low dose pills can also provide effective control



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