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Today, Mother’s Day, marks the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill’s approval by the FDA. Today one in five American women between the ages of 15 and 44 use the pill, spending $3.5 billion in 2008. The pill’s development hinged on the discovery of the Barbasco root, a type of wild yam that Mexican women had been chewing to prevent pregnancy for generations. It was the first US drug developed for use by healthy people. Controversial throughout its history, the pill neither destroyed nor perfected American society and family life as was predicted fifty years ago. Because of health concerns associated with the pill, the FDA changed their approval process including more extensive clinical trials, referrals to outside experts, and ongoing assessment of medication safety. The pill also led the FDA to communicate directly with patients rather than relying only on physicians to relay safety information.
Connecticut has a long history in women’s access to contraceptives. Attempts to shut down a New Haven family planning clinic led the US Supreme Court in 1965 to toss out a state anti-contraceptive law from 1879. The Court ruled that contraceptive use is a private issue. The decision made use of the pill in CT legal, as in the rest of the US.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Ellen Andrews