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The Pill Turns 50
Date:5/7/2010

Oral contraceptives altered the social and sexual landscape in ways expected and unexpected

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- Untold millions of women have taken it at some point in their lives, Loretta Lynn wrote a song about it, people have been arrested for it and it's still one of the most common prescription drugs in the world.

And it's simply known as "the Pill."

On May 9, 1960, an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of the birth control pill. The agency did just that 45 days later.

"Since the Pill was approved by the FDA, it has radically changed women's access to education, to employment and to having the size of family that they want," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which led the effort to get the Pill approved. "It completely changed women's ability to control their own destiny."

Dr. John Preston Parry, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, added: "No medication has come close to the birth control pill in terms of social, political and medical impact. In terms of career opportunities [for women], it's had more of an impact than anything else. The proportion of women pursuing medical careers has gone from about 10 percent to close to 50 percent."

But the Pill was never intended to lead women into the workforce or reduce the size of the average family. Nor did the first drug for "prevention" -- rather than treatment -- immediately alter the landscape.

Planned Parenthood founder and reproductive rights pioneer Margaret Sanger championed the Pill's beginning, Richards related. But, in 1961, barely a year after the Pill had been approved, the head of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut was arrested for providing it to women. That case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in 1965, ruled that there was a constitu
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