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Amy Jacobson, Published June 19 2010

Women value the pill

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the approval of the birth control pill by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1960. This anniversary should both stir memories of changes big and small and spark a recommitment to ensure that every woman who wishes to do so, benefits from the pill and other forms or birth control. And in spite of its vocal detractors (“Anniversary no reason to cheer”) the birth control pill has changed the lives of women and families for the better.

A recently released national survey found that three out of four women said that the birth control pill is one of the most important medical advances of the past century and has had a positive impact on women’s day-to-day lives. The pill remains the most popular reversible method of contraception in America. Nearly 19 percent of all women of childbearing age use the pill, which is nearly 30 percent of all women who use birth control.

In the past 50 years, with the help of the pill, the percentage of women who died as a result of pregnancy dropped by half. During that same period, there was a threefold decline in infant deaths. The percentage of unplanned pregnancies also declined, despite the fact that too many still occur. And as access to contraception has increased, the rate of abortion has decreased. Fifty years after the pill, half of all pregnancies are still unplanned.

As we celebrate the pill’s golden anniversary, we must remember that many women in the U.S. still do not have access to affordable, effective birth control. The work of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota remains just as critical now as it was when we first opened our doors. It is essential that affordable contraception finally be available to every woman in our region, regardless of what kind of insurance she has or her ability to pay.

For those who remember what it was like before the pill was approved, this is an anniversary that inspires rededication to a simple goal: ensuring that all women have access to family planning.


Jacobson is North Dakota public affairs manager, Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.