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Blessing or Burden? "The Pill" Turns 50

Mother’s Day had to share the limelight this year with the 50 year anniversary of ironically, the birth control pill. Many people say that “The Pill” has been a source of empowerment in the lives of women for the last five decades, but not everyone is celebrating. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes has more.

Since the Federal Drug Administration approved “The Pill” in 1960 it has been a consistent source of birth control for women around the world. While many credit “the pill” for giving women the ability to “have it all,” some say that isn’t the case.

“The pill has been a mixed blessing for women.”

That’s Dr. Paula Caplan. She’s a Springfield native who graduated from Greenwood Laboratory School in the1960’s. Caplan has become infamous for her work involving women’s studies and sexism. As a research and clinical psychologist she says the pill wasn’t and still isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

“What it looked like at first was that it was going to be this wonderful liberating thing for women because it was going to mean that women could choose whether or not to have sex without having to be afraid that they would risk getting pregnant. What ended up happening was that it resulted in at least some men putting more pressure on women to have sex even when they didn’t want to,” says Caplan.

Caplan also says that because “The Pill” was becoming easily available, men began to give up all responsibility for using birth control themselves. She says men would either assume the woman was on the pill or leave it to the woman to take responsibility for birth control. And that, She says, means the relationship wasn’t an equal one.

Although Caplan is referring to the immediate issues that happened after “The Pill” was approved in 1960, it appears that not everything changes with time.

Stacy Owens is 24 and a resident of Houston, Missouri. She says she was always hesitant to be on birth control pills because of the side effects associated with them, but her boyfriend encouraged her to start taking them.

“When I first got on birth control, I’m like I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to gain the weight. I don’t want it to mess with my hormones. I don’t want to go through the mood changes that I know some people who take it have gone through. I’m like I wish there was something you could take,” says Owens.

After taking “The Pill” for only a month, Owens quit. She said it gave her a false sense of security since she wasn’t the best at remembering to take a pill every single day. For her, risk factors associated with “The Pill,” like blood clots, made the risks outweigh the benefits.

Caplan says it isn’t unreasonable for women like Owens to expect men to provide their own forms of protection since they generally don’t involve something invasive.

“Using a condom didn’t carry health risks, in fact it protected your health in ways that the pill didn’t. So, what it meant was that more responsibility for birth control was placed on women even though taking the pill had risks of stroke, problems with weight and all kinds of things that using a condom wouldn’t have had for the men,” Caplan said.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the oral contraceptive pill is the most popular method of birth control in America.

For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.