In mid-1957 the US Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Enovid as a treatment for menstrual disturbance. It went on to approve its use as a contraceptive in 1960, after studies indicated the drug’s safety and efficacy.
An editorial in Nature this week catalogues the tumultuous history of the first oral contraceptive since 1957, celebrating its wide availability today. Once a social taboo, the article reports that in 2015 the contraceptive-drug market was worth more than US$6.1 billion globally. And a 2015 UN report stated that approximately 9% of women worldwide used The Pill.
The editors suggest that The Pill has been associated with increased enrollments in college for younger women, as well as an increase in average income. Margaret Sanger, they reflect, “maybe...would be celebrating” despite the “lack of political will” to make contraceptives more available in developing countries.
The anniversary comes at an interesting time, as Catholics prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae in 2018. Humanae Vitae (1968) deemed artificial contraception to be against both natural ethics and Christian morality, and has provided a strong counterpoint to the near universal endorsement of contraception within North America and Europe.
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