The Pill

All compounds that are classified as steroids have the same basic molecular pattern, a series of four rings fused in the same way. Three of the rings have six carbon atoms each while the fourth only has five. These rings are referred to as the A,B,C,D rings. Cholesterol is the most widespread of all animal steroids and is responsible for being the precursor molecule for all our other steroids, including sex hormones.

The sex hormone progesterone is the main pregnancy hormone and is very similar to the male sex hormone when compared to the female sex hormone, estrogen. Progesterone tells the lining of the uterus to prepare for the implantation of a fertilized egg, and it is because of this hormone that women do not get pregnant again while pregnant. This is what brought about the idea of using it as a contraceptive. The progesterone molecule, however, is not as effective taken orally as it is injected. Also, natural steroids must be extracted from animals in very small quantities.The amount necessary to get the job done is not practical, thus, progesterone’s synthetic form was born.

This was first done by Russell Marker, whose work was very important in creating the pill, though his initial intentions were not to create synthetic progesterone. He achieved this by taking spogenin molecules from the sarsparilla vine from which he removed a side grouping circle. This with a few added steps gave pure synthetic progesterone. This molecule was then again created, though this time on purpose, by Carl Dejerassi. Although he did not intend on creating a contraceptive, the artificial compound progestin was made and given the name norethindrome. Its most important aspects being it was eight times more powerful than progesterone and could be taken orally.

Though the pill was now readily available, places like Massachusetts had laws that said the selling, prescribing, providing the contraceptives, or even giving out information on birth control was a felony. Women like Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick made the decision that they wanted to be in control of their own bodies and fertility and helped to make this possible for other women who had the same wants. Women all over have gained more education and have entered the workforce due to the drop in birth rate caused by the acceptance and increasing availability of birth control over the years.

Because of the discoveries made by these chemists and outspoken women, I believe, we live in a much different world than the one could have lived in. Women are far more independent rather than being housewives and doomed to a life with a lack of purpose. They are the heads of entire countries, are surgeons, become astronauts, can speak openly about their opinions, and most importantly have options.

I do think that the authors make a valid argument. They state that this was the start of a women’s revolution and claim that from “the pill” has spiraled an immense and varying population. This is quite different from the one all-male workforce and the innumerable amount of less-educated stay-at-home mothers. The examples the two give where a chemist was in search of one thing yet somehow stumbled upon another all have proven chemical sense and are all backed by the events that follow. It talks about the fact that before contraceptives were available ,or even legal, some women had more children than could be cared for. This scientific discovery is a life changing one that without it we would now find ourselves still stuck in what is now considered a very old way of life, and I would find myself with far fewer possible opportunities and alternatives.