There is a broad range of choice when it comes to birth control these days, but this was not always the case.
Science and medicine has progressed substantially in the last 50 years allowing women a range of choices when it comes to birth control. If you were a woman in the 60’s, the story was markedly different.
Abortions were illegal and pregnancy and childbirth when the parents were unmarried was something to be frowned upon. Terms such as ‘Illegitimate’ were used to describe their outcast status and the children of such a relationship were sometimes called ‘bastards’.
‘Professionals’ in the day, made the decision that these children would be best adopted out to married infertile couples to save them from a doomed life with an unmarried, emotionally unstable mother who could not offer real love or security. This was the dark era of forced adoptions.
Things Had To Change.
The 1960’s was a time of change though. It was touted as being the era of the sexual revolution. This was due to the shifting of traditional values related to sex and sexuality. Traditional values were now being challenge loudly by a vocal minority. Women were being given a voice.
Birth control options for women previously was limited to condoms, diaphragms, and douching syringes.
Then, Margaret Sanger happened.
Margaret Sanger is widely recognised as the founder of the modern birth control movement. In 1916 Margaret opened her first birth control clinic which rapidly led to her arrest for distributing information on contraception. In 1921 Margaret founded the American Birth Control League with later become the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Margaret was inspired to take the first step as her mother passed at a young age due to her body being simply worn out from birthing 11 children and suffering 7 miscarriages. As a nurse, Margaret also was exposed to many young women who had botched up unsafe back alley abortions, as abortions were illegal, and unfortunately it was one of the very limited options for women back then.
Margaret fought for the right for women to have the choice when they were to conceive children, and that ‘children should be conceived in love, born of the mother’s conscious desire and only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health.
Tired of waiting for science to turn its attention to this issue, Margaret set out on a mission. She wanted a contraceptive pill that was as easy to take as an aspirin to provide women with cheap, safe, effective and female controlled contraception.
In 1951 Margaret met Gregory Pincus who was willing to take on this project. This meeting eventually led to creation of a product called Enovid, which was made with a combination of synthetic oestrogen and progesterone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the product Enovid in 1957 which was for the ‘treatment of severe menstrual disorders and requires the drug label to carry the warning the Enovid will prevent ovulation so that no eggs are released by the ovaries for fertilisation by the sperm. Surprisingly enough, there was a dramatic rise in women claiming to now have those disorders so they would be prescribed this product. Coincidence? I think not.
In 1960 ‘The Pill’ as it became known, was made available as a birth control option to married women only. It wasn’t made legal for single women to have this drug until 1972! Although the pill was available for birth control it was still illegal to use in many states in America and countries around the world. It soon though becomes one of the most popular form of reversible birth control in America.
The pill was extremely popular and despite worries over possible side effects women were anxious to be on this new medication. Such side effects included the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, depression, weight gain and loss of libido.
By 1965 more than 6.5million American women were on The Pill. By the time 1968 rolled around women could then select from 7 different brands of ‘The Pill’. This was also the year that Pope Paul VI declares his opposition to the pill, ignoring the recommendations of the Papal Commission on birth control, and states unequivocally, that the church remains opposed to all forms of birth control except the rhythm method.
The development of the contraceptive pill was a major milestone in birth control and gave women control over whether or not they wanted to reproduce. The pill has been reviewed and the formulation changed slightly to ensure it is safer for women to use in modern times.