Birth control has probably existed since back when Eve contemplated the apple. Women have used various methods from herbs to rhythm to abstinence, but the birth control pill gave us a reliable choice for the first time. The decision of when to become pregnant as well as the option not to bear a child, yet have a full sexual life, radically altered the picture for women.
Corresponding to the women's movement and the classic court decision of Roe v. Wade, the sexual revolution hinged in great part on the existence of that tiny hormone-regulator known as the Pill. At the same time, global awareness of the planetary consequences of over-population lent even greater weight to this question of choice. Unfortunately, some governments (such as China's) took that information to the extremes of enforced sterilization.
While religion is still a strong force in many women's decisions regarding birth control all over the world, the power of the priests has lessened somewhat in some places. The stigma of "illegitimate" children has also lessened, with many women opting to have a child out of wedlock and sometimes completely on their own.
Forms of birth control are myriad starting with the classic condom, which has become even more desirable with its added role as the means to protect against disease. Other "modern" inventions range from the IUD, the diaphragm, the cervical cap, the contraceptive sponge, hormonal implants and injections, the female condom, and even the "morning-after" pill.
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Many women complain that science has never put enough resources or effort into inventing a better form of birth control because it's primarily a woman's responsibility not a man's. Now that more of us have moved into the scientific field, more extensive research may be able to move forward on alternative and improved methods of birth control -- provided researchers can get the funding.
For women who want to have a child, but have difficulty in conceiving, the problem is the opposite. Fertility drugs have helped, but a radical side-effect has resulted in instances of multiple births.
All these factors mean we are enjoying more of a balance of power in the world with the advent of effective means to control conception. The choices are up to us as individuals now, rather than in the hands of midwives, men or the religious community.
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