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The 50th anniversary of The Pill


This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Pill, and there’s been some interesting coverage of it by the media. Margaret Marsh, one of the first researchers granted access to the personal letters of the Pill’s co-developer, John Rock, discusses his Catholicism, among other Pill tidbits. The Guardian points out that 200 million women still need access to it worldwide. CBS’s Early Show had an insultingly short segment with Gloria Steinem (!) and Hillary Swank (?) — hey, guess that’s better than nothing. Ob/gyn Christiane Northrup goes over the more medical aspects of the Pill on the Huffington Post. One blogger reminds us of the theory that the Pill-induced standard of a monthly period is actually unnatural. And Time’s recent cover article was a nice review of the history of the Pill — that is, until we came to this line:

There was a time when researchers imagined that Plan B, or the morning-after pill, might become not an emergency form of contraception but a routine one; women would take it once a month to induce a period and never even know whether they had gotten pregnant.

You’d think a huge piece on women’s reproductive rights in such a popular magazine would be able to tell the difference between Plan B and RU486. Emergency contraception (i.e. Plan B or the morning after pill) works by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus, thereby preventing fertilization; it doesn’t ‘induce a period’, end a pregnancy, cause an abortion, etc; it prevents pregnancy — it doesn’t end pregnancy. Hence, with that one sentence, the Time piece inadvertently emphasized just how far we still have to go when it comes to education about birth control options for women in this country.
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photo by Jenny Lee Silver