Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother's Day in the Post-Pill Paradise

The annual rite of maternal flowers and phone calls coincides with the 50th birthday of an oral contraceptive to make motherhood optional for sexually active women.

"Welcome to the post-pill paradise," exulted a suburban wife to her lover in John Updike's 1968 novel, "Couples," celebrating the uncoupling of human lust from procreation.

But some things happened along the way to sexual Nirvana. AIDS, for one. And then a 21st century social conservatism that reached its peak with the Bush Administration's policy of promoting abstinence as the only answer in sex education.

"And we lived happily ever after," says Gail Collins ruefully about the Pill's arrival half a century ago. "Except that over the last 20 years, protests from the social right have made politicians frightened of mentioning birth control and school boards frightened of including it in the curriculum."

So, as on other issues in today's American dialogue of the deaf, politics and real life diverge. Just as abortion became a hot button issue in the crucial last days of Congress' health care debate, the question of whether reimbursement for the Pill will be covered is unanswered, even though 12 million American women of child-bearing age are taking it.

This week the FDA approved still another "improved" version of the Pill, one of 40 now on the market, but the long-anticipated male version continues to be a feminist pipe dream.

Nevertheless, when they make their phone calls or send flowers this weekend, those under 50 may want to thank their mothers for not being on the Pill long enough for them to be born.

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