Ever since the founding of America, freedom has been the core desired goal of its inhabitants. As the years passed, the definition of freedom has evolved and been interpreted differently for different groups. During the Cold War era, accomplishments for sexual freedom spread across the nation, the introduction of the oral contraceptive made it finally possible for women to be equally free to men in regards to sex. Research and developments of the oral contraceptive during the cold war era removed the fear of man unwanted pregnancy leaving women finally as sexually free as men. For centuries, women had the burden and fear of pregnancy with every sexual encounter. They could never truly enjoy sex with their partner without the possibility of becoming pregnant in the back of their minds. With the birth of children, women would have dedicate their lived to caring and raising them. This left no possibility of a higher education or sustainable career. For many employers, women were looked at as though they had a cripple. If and when the women became pregnant that would mean less efficiency in the work place and missed time from their work. As a result women could never hold a job that required full dedication. In addition, women were having more children than the family could financially afford. This left not only the man and woman in a state of poverty, but the children in poor living conditions with no way of recovering. The oral contraceptive known as, “The Pill”, gave women the ability to control their pregnancies and the freedom to control their lives how they would desire. Women were finally able to spread out their children or put their families on hold in order to receive an education, and find a well-paid career without employers worrying about valuable missed time. Finally, birth could be managed and couples could choose or not choose how many children they could afford or want.
The doctor who accompanied the efforts to develop the pill was Dr. Joh Rock. Although a devout Catholic, Rock believed an oral contraceptive saved lives as oppose to the church’s belief that it was a sin in regards to the natural order of creation. During his residency in obstetrics, Rock was assigned to poor immigrant housing projects to assist in delivering infants . He witnessed firsthand the hardships people were living due to bearing more children than the families could financially afford. After Rock established himself as a doctor, he would be visited by women who attempted home abortions and were in danger of losing their lives. “With John Rock seeing firsthand how these women were putting themselves at risk he could not find himself to believe birth control was morally wrong if it could easily prevent women from losing their own lives”, said Dr. Marsh, author of The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution. I had the pleasure of sitting down with her to discuss Dr. Rock and the influence the pill has on life in the Cold War era.
As a result of the invention of the oral contraceptive, couples started their families later on in life as oppose to straight out of high school. Before the pill, families were started with the women being just on the cusp of adulthood and lacking experience and knowledge of raising children. The introduction of the oral contraceptive allowed women and men to mature into adults thus leaving child raising out of the hands of children. The pill also had play in women’s financial potent. The pill meant women could postpone childbearing while they started a career or finish college. Dr. Marsh pointed out in our interview that, “couples could finally space out their kids so they could live within their means without scraping from their savings”. In a recent study from the University of Maryland and the University of California at Los Angeles researchers found that women who decided to put off childbirth, roughly until they were about 26 years old, and focus on their career instead were financially more secure by they reached 50. They were able to get an education and work experience without fear of them having to take time away from establishing themselves at a job to raise children.
Along with the burden of childbirth, women have also struggled with menstrual problems even without a pregnancy. Many women have complained about severe cramps, and migraines which may affect work performance and their overall comfort of living. The hormonal influence in the pill causes less hormones to be released during the ovulation cycle of women. These hormones cause the problems and even dilutes the bleeding during the woman’s period.
With these side benefits we cannot forget the pill’s main purpose and how it revolutionized women’s views about sex. A study conducted at Guttmacher institute, the pill has accounted for a lower rate in unplanned pregnancies. Although previous contraceptives have been around since the cradle of civilization, hormonal contraceptive has been deemed 99 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies (when used correctly). As a result, there has been the percentage of abortions has been dramatically lowered. Woman no longer have to face moral values of society when it comes to the idea of abortions. “We can also give tribute to the pill for allowing many of the revolutions in the 60s to take place,” says Dr. Marsh. Without the pill the women’s liberation movement may have never taken place. Earlier explained was the pill giving women more freedom to enter the work place more seriously. This resulted in difficulties women were facing with having a voice. The Women’s Liberation Movement helped women’s basic rights be granted and their voices ben heard not only in the work place but in government as well.
With these fears now conquered women are finally as free, sexually, as men. The sexual revolution of the 1960s was essentially organized thanks to the Pill. With the idea of sex no longer an unspoken truth, men and women were at long last able to discuss it in conversation without a taboo. Sex and fertility education began with minimal scrutiny in schools and doctor’s offices. Prior to the birth of the oral contraceptive, the norm form for medical visits had the doctors with free range over their patience without the patience choice of diagnosis and prescription. With the political confrontations of the 1960s, patience became the voice when a medical issue was revealed.
(“the pill” documentary; http://health.usnews.com/health-news/womens-health/articles/2010/05/07/birth-control-pill-turns-50-7-ways-it-changed-livesp ; Dr. Marsh Interview)