Happy 50th Birthday, Birth Control Pill

by Alli Jarvinen

On May 9th the birth control pill will turn 50 years old.  The FDA approved the Pill on May 9, 1960 causing excitement and panic.  For this birthday party there won’t be any “over the hill” jokes or black balloons.  The Pill is still kicking just as hard as it did thirty year ago, maybe harder.

(see what else happened on May 9th)

(click image for Pill's family photo album)

This article gives a historical timeline of the Pill, doing so by linking dates and statistics about contraception use to the Women’s Movement.  This story is laced with larger cultural context grafs and smaller personal anecdotes that explore the controversial “birth” of the Pill.

Using numbers to explain the influence of the birth control pill over time was very informative. I didn’t think using numbers could be so expressive.  For example the article says that between 1961 and 1962 women using the Pill went from 400,000 to 1.2 million. Big numbers, big impact.

The article takes up a good deal of space on the debate about whether or not the pill can be credited for the sexual revolution.  Parts of the debate center on the Pill’s influence on female promiscuity, marriage dynamic, and women in the work place.

Something I appreciated about this article was that no real conclusions were drawn.  I think as a journalist and TIME editor, Nancy Gibbs did well in simply informing her readers rather than trying to persuade them to think one way or the other about the birth control pill.  Various debates surrounding the merits of the Pill were included in the article. The arguments were very balanced with quotes from individuals, religious figures, feminists, the FDA, economists, and authors, just to name a few.

Today more than 100 million women around the world start their day with this tiny tablet. So small. So powerful. But in surprising ways, so misunderstood.

Alli Jarvinen’s Media Analysis:  The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom and Paradox (from TIME magazine)

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