Once upon a time women were dying from too many pregnancies. Women suffered injury, disease, and had dangerous illegal abortions. Once upon a time there was no birth control pill. There were ways women had to avoid getting pregnant in any given instance. None of it was long term, none of it allowed them to take control of their bodies and reproductive health, none of it allowed them to choose how many children and when.
Margaret Sanger saw women suffering from too many pregnancies, desperate to not have one child, go through one more birth. And so began her fight to legalize birth control and create the Pill. She and her sister opened the first birth control clinic in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York, and were quickly arrested in violation of the Comstock Law . It was illegal to buy, sell or mail anything obscene – and birth control in any form was obscene.
The Pill came to be in 1960. The most commonly used form of birth control, and likely most trusted, was almost impossible to find at first, unless, of course, you were middle class and married. Isn’t that always the way? Poor women, unmarried women, and those wishing for anonymity were virtually out of luck when it came to obtaining a prescription.
Thirty states had laws restricting the sale of, or advertising related to the Pill. The laws were so strict in Connecticut anyone thought to be assisting someone obtain the pill could be arrested. Connecticut Planned Parenthood League found a solution: offering transportation to women to Rhode Island and New York to get prescriptions.
We have come a long in our history of fighting birth control. The pill was blamed for the sexual revolution, for premarital sex, the jump in cohabitation, and many other aspects of the 1960s and 1970s that many found to be unsavory and immoral. But the times they were a changing. They have continued to change, and while some will fight the latest potential advance – it is time to see birth control as a right for all women.
Women would not have flooded the workforce, colleges, law, medical and business schools in such numbers had this little pill not existed. We have the lives we have today because of it, and it has allowed us to choose if and when we have children.
It is still the poorest women who cannot afford birth control from month to month. Each month the pill is not taken the more likely those women are to get pregnant. Any woman who wishes to have control over her life, her career, her body should be able to get the right birth control for her, easily and be able to keep up with it. Cost should not be an issue when it is in the interest of women’s health.
The Institute of Medicine recommended this week that insurance provide birth control at no cost to the patient. We have come a long way, and it is time to see birth control as the preventive medicine it is.