________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 2 . . . . September 22, 2000

cover The Pill.

Erna Buffie & Elise Swerhone (Directors). Merit Jensen (Associate Producer). Joe MacDonald (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
45 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 006.

Subject Headings:
Oral contraceptives-Side effects.
Oral contraceptives-Social aspects.
Drug development.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Jennifer Branch.

**** /4


I think it captures, in a macrocosm of space and in a microcosm of time, it captures everything that's good and bad about science, about medicine, and about research, about how countries use each other, about the manufacturing process, about how money talks, and about how people make decisions related to the most intimate things in their lives on the basis of a lot of other people who are out there, in some cases constraining the decisions that they make.

What is it? It is a small pill that weighs less than 1/100 of an ounce made of synthetic progesterone and estrogen. It is used by more than 100 million women around the world. It is so famous and important that it has simply been called "The Pill" since the early 1960s.

The Pill tells the story of the development of the birth control pill since it was first suggested as the "magic bullet" in the early 1900s. Research began in the early 1950s when Dr. Gregory Pincus began to develop and test the pill on laboratory rats. In the late 1950s, women in Puerto Rico were used as experimental subjects in clinical trials. The pill first became available in the early 1960s, and, by 1968, between 12 and 16 million women were using the pill. It was seen as the key to sexual freedom. But this sexual freedom was not to come without costs.
    The side effects were many. Women reported weight gain, headaches, cramping, nausea, high blood pressure, and blood clots. By 1968, Searle, the Drug Company that made the pill, had more than 100 cases of premature death that were linked to the pill. Many of these deaths had to do with blood clots that caused embolisms. As a result, "The Pill on the Hill" senate hearings were organized to look into the side effects and deaths. Gloria Steinem speaks on the video of the importance of these hearings, and the demonstrations that resulted from them, for the Women's Movement in the United States.
    The Pill is a very engaging video with television and film footage from the early 1950s mixed with recent testimonies from important writers, historians, female activists, and Puerto Rican women involved in the original trials. Other topics of interest mentioned in the video that may provoke class discussion include the women's movement, feminism, informed consent, medical research, the male pill, new methods of contraception, and the power of drug companies.

Highly Recommended.

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ISSN 1201-9364