Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Science, Technology and Society

Reader 1

Laura Perini

Reader 2

Vivien Hamilton

Reader 3

Nancy Williams

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2022 Emma C Thomas


The introduction of birth control pills in the 1960s and 1970s is commonly referred to as a liberating historical episode regarding women’s reproductive autonomy. This paper explores the timeline of the introduction of oral contraceptives by analyzing women’s value of liberation by increased autonomy and how this was impacted in the face of concern when serious health risks associated with the Pill became more well known. Additionally, this work analyzes the role of governmental regulatory institutions such as the FDA in risk assessment of drugs and uncovers why the unique pharmaceutical nature of the drug at the time called for a re-evaluation of safety determination strategies. Then, through an analytic framework of “responsibilization” which is suggested to have resulted from failed risk assessments that led to institutional distrust and convoluted opinions on the Pill’s safety, an argument emerges that the prioritization of autonomy dominated a competing value of safety. Through the recognition of “trade-offs” from individualized risk assessments as a result of the proposed responsibilization, an interrogation on the established narrative of the Pill as a “liberating” agent is called into question due to the compromising cost of autonomy.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.