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Frelsi, fagnaðarefni og hættuspil. Getnaðarvarnarpillan á Íslandi 1960-1980

Ása Ester Sigurðardóttir
Birtist í
Saga: Tímarit Sögufélags 2023 LXI:I
The history of the contraceptive pill in Iceland has scarcely been researched in the nation’s historiography. After its introduction there around 1960, the pill quickly became popular amongst Icelandic women, as it was reliable and easy to use. Its impact was considerable: by allowing women to decide when and whether to have children, it gave them more control over their lives and made it easier for them to seek work or education outside of their homes. However, the pill’s repercussions were not all seen in a positive light, for in some cases its side effects could be dangerous or even lethal. That, alongside changing perspectives towards sex during the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, led some to believe the pill was not the positive change some heralded it to be. This article explores the history of the contraceptive pill in Iceland between 1960 and 1980, shedding light on its first decades of use in the country and the social changes it brought about. Its effects on the lives, agency and bodily integrity of women are in the forefront; these are evidenced by contemporaneous newspaper and magazine articles reflecting common attitudes towards this new drug, as well as by the author’s interviews with women of child-bearing age during the period in question and with people working in the healthcare sector at the time. The impact of the pill, and people’s views on it, were not homogenous. As the birth control pill was not only a new medicine but also a new kind of drug, much was yet unknown about its effects, both biological and sociological. Some considered it to be dangerous, mostly because of its side effects, and it is clear that its history is complicated in such a way that we cannot evaluate it in binary terms of good or bad. However, it is also clear that the pill had liberating outcomes for the women who used it, as it allowed them to plan their pregnancies with more precision than any other contraceptive method before it.