How “The Pill” changed America

(NBC) – There are tons of pills on the market, but only one is so commonly used in this country that it's known simply as "The Pill."

It looked like any other pill, but it signified the beginning of a major cultural shift.

In 1960 the Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever birth control pill.

An estimated 98-percent of women have used birth control in their lifetime, but the pill didn't catch on right away when it was first introduced.

One road block: A federal law at that time labeled birth control as obscene, and made it illegal to use. The law didn't change until several years after the pill was approved.

"The pill freed up women's lives in many ways. We untied the idea of using birth control at the time of sexual activity, so that women didn't really have to think about it," noted Dr. Sheryl Kingsberg of the UH Case Medical Center.

Many attributed the sexual revolution of the 1960s to the little pill, but this is debatable.

"While women's pregnancy rates went down with the pill, women's comfort and the idea of women's sexuality being appropriate didn't necessarily follow," Kingsberg explained.

What did follow was a freedom for women to expand their roles beyond raising children.

"It allowed them to go to college, it allowed them to pursue a career and it allowed them to have the number of children that they wanted," said Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards.

She says that even though legal and social hurdles have been overcome, financial obstacles in accessing the pill remain.

"So many young women and women that are just entering the work force, they may not have insurance coverage, and even if they do, birth control still could be 40 or 50 dollars a month," she said.

It's only been in the last decade that a majority of health insurers covered the pill.

Planned Parenthood advocates birth control coverage in the new health care law as preventive care.

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