It has been called the only product in American history so powerful that it needed no name. Today we know it simply as "the pill," but it was made possible only through the efforts of four larger-than-life figures. The Birth of the Pill, based on Jonathan Eig's 2014 book, The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, follows feminist icon Margaret Sanger and philanthropist Katherine McCormick, who campaigned for women's rights and championed birth control, enlisting the help of visionary scientist Gregory Pincus and Catholic OB/GYN John Rock. Together, the four took on the scientific establishment, the church and cultural norms in their fight to make safe and effective contraception available to millions of women. The Birth of the Pill is a thrilling recounting of the development of a drug that forever changed medical and social history.
Status: In Development
Runtime: 60 minutes
The Birth of the Pill - Combined oral contraceptive pill - Netflix
The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth control pill or colloquially as “the pill”, is a type of birth control that is designed to be taken orally by women. It includes a combination of an estrogen (usually ethinylestradiol) and a progestogen (specifically a progestin). When taken correctly, it alters the menstrual cycle to eliminate ovulation and prevent pregnancy. They were first approved for contraceptive use in the United States in 1960, and are a very popular form of birth control. They are currently used by more than 100 million women worldwide and by almost 12 million women in the United States. As of 2012, 16% of U.S. women aged 15–44 reported being on the birth control pill, making it the most widely used contraceptive method among women of that age range. Use varies widely by country, age, education, and marital status. One third of women aged 16–49 in the United Kingdom currently use either the combined pill or progestogen-only pill, compared with only 1% of women in Japan. Two forms of combined oral contraceptives are on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. The pill was a catalyst for the sexual revolution.
The Birth of the Pill - Society and culture - Netflix
The pill was approved by the FDA in the early 1960s; its use spread rapidly in the late part of that decade, generating an enormous social impact. Time magazine placed the pill on its cover in April, 1967. In the first place, it was more effective than most previous reversible methods of birth control, giving women unprecedented control over their fertility. Its use was separate from intercourse, requiring no special preparations at the time of sexual activity that might interfere with spontaneity or sensation, and the choice to take the pill was a private one. This combination of factors served to make the pill immensely popular within a few years of its introduction. Claudia Goldin, among others, argue that this new contraceptive technology was a key player in forming women's modern economic role, in that it prolonged the age at which women first married allowing them to invest in education and other forms of human capital as well as generally become more career-oriented. Soon after the birth control pill was legalized, there was a sharp increase in college attendance and graduation rates for women. From an economic point of view, the birth control pill reduced the cost of staying in school. The ability to control fertility without sacrificing sexual relationships allowed women to make long term educational and career plans. Because the pill was so effective, and soon so widespread, it also heightened the debate about the moral and health consequences of pre-marital sex and promiscuity. Never before had sexual activity been so divorced from reproduction. For a couple using the pill, intercourse became purely an expression of love, or a means of physical pleasure, or both; but it was no longer a means of reproduction. While this was true of previous contraceptives, their relatively high failure rates and their less widespread use failed to emphasize this distinction as clearly as did the pill. The spread of oral contraceptive use thus led many religious figures and institutions to debate the proper role of sexuality and its relationship to procreation. The Roman Catholic Church in particular, after studying the phenomenon of oral contraceptives, re-emphasized the stated teaching on birth control in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae vitae. The encyclical reiterated the established Catholic teaching that artificial contraception distorts the nature and purpose of sex. On the other side Anglican and other Protestant churches, such as the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) accepted the combined oral contraceptive pill. The United States Senate began hearings on the pill in 1970 and there were different viewpoints heard from medical professionals. Dr. Michael Newton, President of the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said:
Another physician, Dr. Roy Hertz of the Population Council, said that anyone who takes this should know of “our knowledge and ignorance in these matters” and that all women should be made aware of this so she can decide to take the pill or not. The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare at the time, Robert Finch, announced the federal government had accepted a compromise warning statement which would accompany all sales of birth control pills.
“The evidence is not yet clear that these still do in fact cause cancer or related to it. The FDA Advisory Committee made comments about this, that if there wasn't enough evidence to indicate whether or not these pills were related to the development of cancer, and I think that's still thin; you have to be cautious about them, but I don't think there is clear evidence, either one way or the other, that they do or don't cause cancer.”
The Birth of the Pill - References - Netflix