Oct. 1966: Branford, Dwight Hall forums discuss contraceptive pills

The Rev. David M. Byers told a group of students at the Branford Medical Forum last night that members of the Yale community exhibit a “sexual double standard that is really sick — really sick!”

Mr. Byers was one of three speakers who talked about various aspects of “Pregnancy, the Pill, and Morals.” The other speakers were Dr. Phillip Sorrell, resident in obstetrics at the Yale-New Haven Hospital and Dr. Nathan Kase, resident in gynecology, also at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Mr. Byers said, “The advent of the pill is for the most part, morally speaking, salutary” because it helps to “clear away the fear of consequences as a reason for abstinence.”

“Fear of consequences is not a sound basis for abstinence,” he said. “The pill forces you to bring your decision-making vis-a-vis premarital intercourse down to the nitty-gritty of responsibility.”

Mr. Byers said that such decisions should be made on the basis of “concern for the integrity of the other person, a deeper understanding of what marriage is, and a deeper understanding of the part sex can play in the life of a healthy male.”

He said, though, that one of the most frequently considered factors in the pre-marital sex decisions of Yale students was “exploitation.” He explained that this exploitation is what gives rise to his vision of the “sick double standard.”

“I have yet to see a Yale student who wants to marry a girl who is not a virgin,” he added.

He said that between 50 and 80 percent of teenage brides in the United States are pregnant when they are married; that there are between one and one-and-a-half million abortions performed every year; that one out of six girls in Connecticut will be pregnant out of wedlock by the time she is 20; and that in the United States there are 300,000 illegitimate births every year.

Dr. Sorrell said that in his clinic for unwed mothers there is a 17-year-old girl who has had seven children, a 13-year-old girl with two children, and an 11-year-old girl who has had one child.

All the babies born in his clinic were kept by the mother, he said, since it is extremely difficult to get babies adopted. Since most of his patients are Negroes, the problem is especially acute, because only four percent of Negro babies born out of wedlock are adopted, as opposed to a 64 percent adoption rate for white babies.

Contraception Alone No Good

Dr. Sorrell said that it is impossible to end unwanted pregnancies merely by prescribing contraceptives. “The only way contraception will work for young girls, poor girls, immature girls, is if the contraceptives are supervised by an older person,” he said.

In every case this means the mother, since the parents’ permission is required before a doctor can prescribe contraceptives or even examine a teenage patient, said Dr. Sorrell.

Dr. Kase said that the decision upon the part of a woman to take birth control pills is an extremely serous one because pills still carry with them the danger of serious illness.

He termed the recent Federal Drug Administration approval of the pills “premature,” and warned that girls should be made aware of risks involved in taking pills before they decide to use them.

Referring to sexual relationships between Yale students and girls from other colleges, he said, “For casual intercourse, for the woman to take a pill involving significant risks, it seems silly to take a pill for 20 days when she can use adequate mechanical devices.”

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