How would society be different without the pill?

The birth control pill turns 50 years old this year. Today’s Question: How would society be different without the pill?

  • Sue de Nim

    Women would have a lot less control over their lives.

  • Khatti

    I’m a science fiction guy, and a Seventies child; one thing I figured out in my youth was that the world was a crowded place, and it would get along swimmingly without my munchkins taking up space in it. I’m also an enthusiastic advocate of sex for no point other than mindless recreation. I favor any device that supports both the latter and the former concerns.

  • Steve

    We would have many more unwanted & abused children growing up to be violent criminals.

  • James

    My wife and I would have had our children earlier in life. With kid 1 at 30 and kid 2 at 32, I feel we are better parents…. more mature and better off in the work force to deal with proper up bringing.


  • EAL

    Pardon the frankness, but from a male perspective, the benefits have been huge in allowing for more indiscriminate intimacy. From a female perspective, while equally liberating in some respects, the pill has paved the path for some women to behave as irresponsible as men. The tragedy is that no matter the rhetoric of equality, the poor behavior by women have different consequences for women than for men. Which permeates into more single parent children.

  • adrian

    How has the rate of people who contracted STD/STI’s been affected by the pill? Could it promote a sort of wrecklessness? Also, say there was a birth control pill for males, how would it affect rates of contracting STD/STI’s.

  • Tai Koma

    I wouldn’t be able to keep the effects of PCOS under control. I’d go six months without a period, then have three of them in the space of two months, and then perhaps go another two months without one. Along with excessive hair growth and weight gain. It also keeps my emotions in control- I have a higher incidence of suicidal thoughts when off the pill due to the wild way PCOS makes my hormones spike.

    Certain people may want to preach about how any woman taking the pill just want to sleep around without taking responsibility, but they always ignore the other medical benefits of the pill.

    Plus, it prevents abortions! You’d think pro-lifers could get behind that.

    As for whether the pill has actually THAT greatly affected the population numbers, probably not. We’re having fewer kids, but more of them are surviving. If you look at pre-WWII population predictions, we’re exactly where they said we’d be.

  • Alison

    I think this has resulted in a higher standard of living for many families. Parents have fewer kids to provide for with the same amount of money.

  • Alma De Anda

    There would be a higher rate of poverty, crime and violence in communities, with kids learning to perpetuate this cycle. There would also be a higher rate of women dying from trying to end their pregnancies themselves. Plus, women would never be as close to equal pay and respect as we are now if we were not able to CHOOSE when to have children.

  • Lois

    Without the pill the world would miserable. Malthus’s predictions of starvation and disease due to overpopulation would have already become a reality. It still will become a reality if we don’t stop population growth (and if we don’t get off fossil fuels soon). The tragedy is that not all women who would benefit from the pill have access to it. Someone estimated that the annual rate of global population growth matches the rate of unwanted births. If the slogan of Planned Parenthood, “Every child a wanted child”, became reality, the future would be much more promising.

  • MH

    I totally agree that the world is a better place in so many ways, with the pill available. But folks over 50 should think of this: they came into the world before the pill and before abortion was legal. Some of them — and therefore their kids and grandkids — might not have made it at all. We have three adult children, born pre-pill who are great human beings. And then the pill came along, and tubal ligation — both are HUGE blessing to the world. As are those pre-pill “kids”.

  • Ryan

    Without the pill neither I nor my brother would be here — my mother alleges she was on the pill when each of us was conceived in the seventies. I am personally thankful for the failure of that contraceptive system!

    While the above is true, in all seriousness, the pill and all forms of contraception are great things. Some reasons/assertions:

    1) The world is almost always improved when women are empowered to control their own reproductive outcomes (and when women are well educated, but that’s a separate, but related, issue).

    2) The last thing planet earth needs is more unwanted children.

    3) Family size and poverty are positively correlated, with some good evidence of a causal relationship in both directions.

  • Susan WB

    One of the primary benefits of the pill has been that women have been able to have real careers. It’s hard to lead a serious professional life if you can’t control your reproduction. And of course if you stay single or just abstain people assume you’re a lesbian, like they have with the current Supreme Court nominee. (Unless you became a nun, that is.) So it’s been a huge economic driver and method of advancing women’s rights.

    People say that women just want to be on the pill so they can be promiscuous, but really most married (and faithful!) women I know are on the pill for the simple reason of wanting to control their own destinies.

  • jessica Sundheim

    Khatti’s post kind of influenced my thoughts on this subject. I think the pill is great for those women whose systems can tolerate it, and I’m grateful for other forms of contraception.

    That said, there still remains very little respect or help for the role women have in caring for our society’s children. The majority are still expected to pull 2nd shift, and despite evidence from examples like Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, etc, comprehensive family programs still do not exist in this country and don’t have a chance in hell. I think one unintended consequence, is that because children are a choice, women bare even more responsibility for them in our society. We are expected (and expect) to be super human, never complaining, self sufficient, self-contained (i.e. children are often not welcome in public places), isolated care providers, while men still get away with less.

    If we’re going to continue as a society to hold such high expectations, while continuing to segregate care givers and children from society, while denying equal pay and comprehensive benefits that increase both their and their childrens’ well-being and cut poverty rates in half… then I hope they create a pill for my four daughters will negate the overwhelming desire to have children in the first place.

    I have seen documentaries of desperately poor women doing everything they could to keep their children. Every child is not a wanted child, especially in this society!

  • Nancy Thomas

    I had 5 children between 1961-1967.

    1961: I almost got a bed in the hallway, there were so many new Mothers. 1967: I had a room to myself and most rooms were empty

    on the floor. I was so pleased to have my family, my husband had a vasectomy. I could not take THE PILL, they affected my eyesight.

    I wouldn’t take them.

    I watched the schools close, it changed the dynamaics of our world. I guess it has changed a lot of things. Our world is way too permissive….what happened to the word NO?

    I’m sure a different generation would declare the PILL progress…I don’t have the same thoughts for more reasons. I’m 71

    and am THANKFUL as I watch what is going on in our world, because they are on the PILL.

  • Joseph

    More people would own shotguns.

    There would be more shotgun weddings.

  • Mary

    A lot of us know what life was like without the pill – it wasn’t that long ago that it became widely available.

    Among other things, it meant more frequent pregnancies, higher numbers of adoptions, higher rates of domestic abuse, larger families, and increased poverty among families.

    Maybe more adoptions wouldn’t be so bad.

    I wonder what would the world of business and other full time employment look like today if the only women in it were those who weren’t able to have kids, lesbians not wanting kids, or the intentionally celibate.

  • Stephanie

    I was genuinely dissappointed with people’s responses to this question. They were not controversial or devisive. Everyone seems to grasp the concept that there are more people on the planet than the planet can support and we need to actively limit our numbers to a sustainable level.

    No one exposed the opinion that the woman’s place is in the home and they should be kept barefoot and pregnant.

    No one blamed the AIDS epidemic on the pill. Apparently they picked up o the fact that gay men generally don’t take the pill.

    People understood that women’s economic prosperity would not have been possible without a reliable form of contraception. I personally think this is due to the combination of Rosie the Riveter raising a generation of women who heard the stories of their mothers stepping up and joining the workforce and making a real contribution to winning World War II. This generation had more confidence in their abilities and expected more opportunities in the work world.

    I would take the advent of the pill one step further and make it mandatory for all women not actively attempting to get pregnant. I would change the tax code to phase out exemptions and deductions for children excluding adoption costs over the course of ten to twelve years.. I would then phase in an additonal tax or penalty for having children of $2000 per year per child. I would use this money to pay woman $500 – $1000 per year for not having children starting at age twelve. I would pay both men and women $10,000 for getting permanently sterilized.

    I would also devote serious funding to the development of an oral or implantable contraceptive for men. This money would come from the money that is currently spent on building and running prisons.

    Once the world’s population has reached a sustainalbe level, tax penatlies and credits would be adjusted to levels that would keep the birth rate stable and in line with the death rate.