The cover of Newsweek for this week is about the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. It’s actually the 50th anniversary of The Pill becoming legal in the U.S., but still, it is a momentous event.
I am a dorky history teacher so patterns in work forces, changes in societal structure, and roles of traditionally marginalized segments of society (like women) are all things I study and, in turn, teach to adolescents. Birth control is one of those things that I teach about very delicately when talking to teenagers.
The Pill is a big deal for a few reasons. Being able to plan pregnancies allows women to have careers instead of “jobs” for the first time in history. The American workforce of the last 50 years certainly reflects that. It also opened the discussions about the roles of birth control methods–and unless you have 1 kid for every year you’ve been married, you’re practicing SOME form of birth control. And, really, I don’t think the Duggars read this, so I’m talking to you.
At the beginning of the 20th century it was illegal to sell condoms, teach women about their reproductive cycles, or advise married couples on ways to avoid additional pregnancies. Families had more children than they could afford and women placed themselves at increased risk for complications during pregnancy.
I know there are a lot of problems that come with hormonal birth control. But there are quite a lot of benefits and the idea that we can actually have choices about when we have kids is great in my world.
Every time I teach about the changes that come with women’s rights and the advent of legal birth control options I am grateful that I live now. I have been well educated about how my body works and what I can do to try and keep myself healthy.
I don’t have to have more children than I can afford to feed in order to have a normal marital relationship. I can buy condoms, an IUD, a diaphragm, the female condom, the O-ring, spermicide, AND a wide variety of hormonal options–in patch, pill, and injectable form. I can even choose to track my fertility cycles with a wide variety of books, websites, and doctor resources if I want to use “natural” family planning.
The Pill, for all it’s faults, opened the door for that knowledge. So thanks to Margaret Sanger (who received death threats for trying to teach working class women how to limit their number of children) and Frank Colton (who invented the first hormonal pill) and all the researchers who have come since then. I appreciate it.