The Pill

newyorksocietyforthesuppressionofviceI was going to let the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill go by without comment, but then it dawned on me how ironic it was that it fell on Mother’s Day. I’d have to dig into the old history books to confirm it, but I’m thinking that maybe it wasn’t a coincidence. Maybe, I’m thinking, it also fell on Mother’s Day 50 years ago, when it first became legal, and maybe there were political reasons for doing so. It’s hard to appreciate now just how different the environment was in 1960, and how truly radical, and controversial, The Pill was. Sure, we can kind of get a sense as to the magnitude of the development, at least on a personal level, by listening to Lorette Lynn’s, “The Pill,” but the fact that contraception was actually illegal in the U.S. for quite a long period of time isn’t something, I think, that most people realize. If you ever find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands, check out the Comstock laws of 1873 and New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. It’s interesting stuff… Here’s the text of the Comstock law, named after family values crusader Anthony Comstock:

Be it enacted… That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States…shall sell…or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court of the United States…he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court.

And this is probably a good time to remind folks that there are people in America today, including elected officials, that would like nothing more that to see contraception made illegal again.

On a happier note, however, I leave you with this comment by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the founding editor of Ms. Magazine, and founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus:

In 1962, when I was a 22-year-old Holly Golightly-wannabe living in Greenwich Village with my dog and my motor scooter, two events had a seismic effect on my life. Helen Gurley Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl, and my doctor at the time (Shepard Aronson, who would become one of the first male members of the National Organization for Women) wrote me a prescription for The Pill.
Each in its way was transformative. Brown’s book, which was both frisky and practical, acknowledged what millions had known but denied — that nice girls “did it” and sometimes even enjoyed it, and that sex need not lead to marriage. In 1962, this was considered shocking.

The impact of The Pill was even more radical. It meant sex need not lead to pregnancy. But it wasn’t just another form of contraception, it was an equalizer, a liberator, and easy to take. For the first time in human history, a woman could control her sexuality and determine her readiness for reproduction by swallowing a pill smaller than an aspirin. Critics warned that The Pill would spawn generations of loose, immoral women; what it spawned was generations of empowered women who are better equipped to make rational choices about their lives.

And, yeah, I realize that I probably should have written about Elena Kagan and why she’s a bad choice to fill John Paul Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court, but I got distracted by sex. Sorry. It happens to the best of us.

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10 Comments

  1. Steve Swan
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the new tattoo idea.

  2. Robert
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    That’s hot.

  3. Kim
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    You don’t hear much about it, because most people of that ilk are focused on abortion, but, if abortion were to be outlawed, you can bet that the next front would be contraception. It’s an affront to God.

  4. Stephen
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Republican FAIL on Kagan:

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/05/steele-attacks-kagan-for-citing-thurgood-marshalls-criticism-of-slavery.php?ref=fpblg

  5. Posted May 11, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Are you being sarcastic Kim, or is that your position on the subject?

  6. Kim
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh. No, I’m smarter than to think that god cares whether a thin sheet of latex keeps sperm from reaching egg.

  7. Ted
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    And if they got their way on abortion and contraception, you know that they’d start coming after those of us who pull out before climaxing.

  8. Posted May 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    I had an interesting discussion with my friend Kez the other day about forming a group like the Society for the Suppression of Vice, only, instead of busting up bookstores that sold sex education literature, we’d bust up trough urinals.

  9. Posted May 11, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    And, speaking of Kagan, MoveOn just sent out the following:

    Yesterday, President Obama announced his newest Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan.

    Republicans have already started to attack her, using the same old divisive wedge issues like gay rights and abortion.

    Those critical issues will and should be examined during the Senate confirmation hearings. But unless we speak up, there’s one important one that won’t: In recent years the Roberts court has tilted heavily in favor of expanding the rights of giant corporations. And we need to know whether Elena Kagan is going to side with the big corporations or if she’s going to stand up for everyday Americans.

    If we can make this issue the center of the debate, not only can we make sure Kagan will be a champion for the rights of ordinary Americans over those of big corporations, but we can put the Justices on alert that Americans are upset about the direction of the court.

    Can you call Sens. Stabenow and Levin and ask them to ask tough questions on corporate power? Ask them to make sure that the court’s corporate tilt is a major thrust of the hearings.

    Here’s where to call:

    Senator Debbie Stabenow
    Phone: 202-224-4822

    Senator Carl Levin
    Phone: 202-224-6221

  10. Michael
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    uhhh. Trough urinals. Only thing worse: moat urinals. They used to have them at The Big House. Haven’t been in decades, hope they are gone.

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