What is The Pill?
The pill refers to the molecule norethindrone, which was the first oral contraceptive. It is credited as being a catalyst for the sexual revolution in the 1960s, the women’s liberation movement, the rise of feminism, the increased percentage of women in the workplace, and the breakdown of the family. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and women’s rights activist, along with Katherine McCormick met with Gregory Pincus, a specialist in female fertility, and challenged him to produce an oral contraceptive that was safe, cheap, reliable, and shaped like aspirin. In May of 1960, the pill was finally approved as an oral contraceptive by the FDA.
Historical impact and Chemistry:
Norethindrone is a group of compounds known as steroids. All compounds that are classified as steroids all share the basic molecular pattern of a series of four rings fused together in the same way. The structures of the male sex hormones (androgens), the female sex hormones (estrogens), and the pregnancy hormones (progestin) are very similar in their molecular structures and even minuscule changes have a large effect in how it behaves. It was found that progesterone is released naturally by the female’s body during pregnancy to suppress ovulation, and prevents the woman from getting pregnant again during her first pregnancy. As a result, progesterone was used as a contraceptive. However, there were problems with this method including: it being very difficult and expensive to isolate the necessary quantity of progesterone to prevent ovulation and it had to be injected to maintain its potency. To solve these problems, a synthetic molecule that mimics the role of progesterone than can be taken orally, but still retained its potency, needed to be created. By removing a CH3 group, the potency of progesterone like molecules increased. Carl Djerassi created norentindrone, which was eight times more potent than progesterone and could be taken orally, and it was patented in November 1951.
When the pill become fully legal in the 1960s, women gained the freedom to decide what they wanted to do with their bodies, which led to the sexual revolution. This freedom spread to women craving more freedom in all areas and becoming equal to men, which was the basis of the rising feminism movement. A woman’s role changed from being a housewife and having a multitude of children to being a women with a career who had the ability to control when and if she wanted to have children.
I believe that the impact of birth control has become more prominent in today’s society. The subject of birth control, and its acceptance, has been a hot topic in not only the Catholic religion but also in the government. Even though the pill is mainly thought of as just a contraceptive, it also has several other uses that contribute to its high consumption rates. Birth control can: regulate menstrual cycles, relieve menstrual cramps, reduce endometriosis, prevent the symptoms of PMS and PMDD, and it can reduce a women’s chance of having anemia, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer. With these benefits becoming known to women around the world, it has become more prominent in the modern world, and will likely become even more prominent in the future
I believe the author’s argument that the creation of the pill led to a social revolution is valid. The pill gave women a voice, gave them the opportunity to take control over their own bodies when men were making those decisions for them. Women being able to use birth control not only led to a sexual revolution, but a revolution of women fighting for more rights than just the basic ones they should have had to begin with. They began to demand an equal standing with men and spurred a feminist movement that is still being fought today. Women now have careers that wouldn’t have been available to them 50 years ago, they now have the opportunity to run a country, and they now have the opportunity to speak out about and bring awareness to such taboo topics such as rape, violence, and incest.