Contraceptives and Society

June 7, 1972

Report Outline
Social Impact of Pill and Abortion
Control Practices of Past and Present
Search for the Ideal Contraceptives
Special Focus

Social Impact of Pill and Abortion

Effect of Contraceptives on Declining Birth Rate

The Ideal Contraceptive is a promise of untold value for the millions here and abroad who worry about unwanted parenthood and overpopulation. To them it is the Holy Grail of scientific pursuit. Numberless others of various religious and moral persuasions—many of them Catholics—view the quest with deep misgivings. Both groups agree on one major point: Among all the great technological advances of modern times, few can equal the potential impact on humanity of a contraceptive that is safe, inexpensive, easy to use but remote in application from the sex act, and completely effective without limiting the prospect for pregnancy when desired.

How closely oral contraceptives meet these criteria is the subject of much debate. No one calls “the pill” perfect. Questions of its health hazards are still raised; it is definitely unwise for some women to take the pill. But together with the intrauterine device (IUD) and older methods of contraception—plus abortion—it fills out a spectrum of methods that has apparently already contributed to a slowing down of population growth in many countries, including the United States.

A decline in the U.S. birth rate, now at its lowest point since record-keeping began in 1915, is attributable to the popularity of oral contraceptives and the relaxation of bans on abortion.China is believed to have brought its rate of population growth down below the world average of 2 per cent a year by making contraception and abortion freely available. The late Edgar Snow, an American journalist who traveled widely in China, reported that Chinese research laboratories did not find a satisfactory oral contraceptive until 1967. Since then the pill has been manufactured by the billions and has become the favored means of contraception.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Birth Control
Jun. 24, 2005  Birth-Control Debate
Jul. 29, 1994  Birth Control Choices
May 14, 1993  Preventing Teen Pregnancy
Nov. 11, 1988  Birth Control: the Choices Are Limited
Jun. 07, 1972  Contraceptives and Society
Sep. 04, 1968  Birth Control in Latin America
Nov. 09, 1966  Oral Contraceptives
Oct. 15, 1958  Status of Birth Control
Biology and Life Sciences
Population Control