On May 9, as mothers around the country are showered with gifts from relatives and friends, America’s must trusted and widely used form of birth control will turn 50.
On May 9, 1960, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Committee voted to approve use of the first oral contraceptive. The pill was formally approved just over a month later.
According to reproductive health care provider and advocate Planned Parenthood of America (PPFA), the number of women who die from pregnancy-related illnesses has dropped by half since the pill was introduced.
In addition, the group said because access to contraception has improved, abortion rates have decreased.
“The availability of the pill has literally reshaped the lives of women, men and families across the country and around the globe,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “This highly effective oral contraceptive enables women to plan their own futures in ways they never could before by deciding the timing and spacing of their children, as well as by being able to decide to pursue more education and employment before they start their families. This is one pill that literally changed the world and the way we live.”
The pill’s 50-year anniversary also raises questions about health insurance and whether birth control should be included in coverage like vaccines, blood pressure and cholesterol medications.
According to a study conducted by PPFA, 70 percent of women consider the birth control pill a preventive health care measure. In addition, three out of four people surveyed thought insurers should be required to cover the birth control pill and other contraceptives at low or no cost.
“Even 50 years after the pill was approved, millions of women cannot afford birth control or do not know how to use it effectively. As a result, half of all pregnancies in America are unplanned,” said Richards. “First and foremost, all women need affordable contraceptive options regardless of their income or type of insurance, so that they can fulfill their own aspirations for themselves and their children. That's why we are committed to ensuring that under the new health care law all contraception is covered as preventive care at no cost to patients.”