‘It changed the world’: Exploring 60 years with the birth control pill

| | May 15, 2020
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Loretta Ross, an activist and visiting women’s studies professor at Smith College, was among the first generation of young women to have access to the birth control pill throughout their reproductive years.

Ross, now 66, said by the time she came of age around 1970, the pill was giving young women more control over their fertility than previous generations had enjoyed.

“We could talk about having sex – not without consequences, because there were still STDs … but at the same time, with more freedom than our foremothers had,” Ross said. “So it changed the world.”

For all it’s done for women, Ross said that the pill has a complex and controversial history; it was first tested on low-income women in Puerto Rico. Ross said the pill also has limitations. She’d like to see it made available over the counter.

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[Historian Linda] Gordon said that 60 years after the pill’s approval, contraception remains a contentious political issue.

Just [recently], the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act. A decision on whether some institutions with religious or moral objections can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees is expected in the months to come.

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