A Terrifying Future for Female Fertility - by the Man Who Created the Pill; 50 Years after the Advent of the Oral Contraceptive, Its Inventor Shares His Chilling Vision for Human Reproduction
Byline: by Helen Weathers
PROFESSOR Carl Djerassi is often asked what might have happened had he not invented the birth control Pill. Would there have been a sexual revolution, free love, and the cataclysmic shift in attitudes which continues to shape society? Would the world have been a worse or better place?
Did the Pill empower women by giving them control over their own fertility and the freedom to enjoy sex without fear of pregnancy?
Or is it, as one writer put it, one of 'the biggest disasters of the 20th century medically, morally and ethically'?
Professor Djerassi raises an eyebrow and admits to feeling 'p***** off" and offended by the 'hogwash' spouted by those who lay the blame for society's ills on the Pill.
'Without the Pill the sexual revolution would have happened regardless, but there would have been a lot more misery along the way in terms of unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions,' he says.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the licensing of the pill in the UK, and in October Professor Djerassi celebrates the 60th birthday of his scientific discovery. Now aged 86, but far from retired, he has agreed to meet me at his London flat to discuss his legacy and present his startling -- and some might say unsettling -- vision of the future.
Professor Djerassi believes that, with more of today's women delaying motherhood for economic reasons, his own invention could soon be redundant.
'There are an enormous number of welleducated, proficient women who, when facing the biological clock, first pay attention to their professional ambitions,' he says.
'Before they know it they are in their 30s. By the age of 35, they have lost 95 per cent of their eggs, and the rest are ageing rapidly. Sooner or later, in the next 20 years, more young people will freeze their eggs and gametes in their 20s, and bank them for later use. They will do away with the need for contraception by being sterilised, and withdraw their eggs and sperm from the bank when they are ready to have a child via IVF.'
The Father of the Pill, as Djerassi has been dubbed, leads me into an elegant living room adorned with fine art. He is a small, smart man, with white hair and a neatly-trimmed beard.
A professor at America's Stanford University, he regards himself more as an author and agent provocateur than a scientist these days. Through his writing he explores the social consequences of technological advance, hoping to bring the issues involved to a broader audience.
He calls it science-in-fiction, as opposed to science fiction, inviting the reader to make their own judgments, based on the facts.
Professor Djerassi eyes me slightly warily, wondering if I am the kind of person who deals in facts, or a fully paid-up member of the moral majority, a religious fundamentalist for whom contraception contravenes God's law.
'If I think the world is round and you think the world is flat, all argument is pointless,' he says. 'You will not change my belief, and I will not change yours.
'I am not religious, I do not believe in God. Although I respect the right of others to hold those beliefs, arguing over fundamentals is pointless.'
Worse still, in his eyes, could I be one of those feminists who has brought with her a long charge-sheet accusing the male inventors of the Pill of interfering with a woman's natural fertility, pumping them full of hormones, in order to make them sexual playthings for men?
Religious objections he can understand, but he expresses amazement that some highly-intelligent, welleducated women could remain such 'reproductive Luddites'.
These views -- bemoaning the medicalisation of female fertility and conception -- he regards not just as hogwash but as 'sentimental hogwash'.
'Feminists at the time were against the Pill on ideological grounds, considering it a male invention which impinged on the most intimate aspects of their body. …