Sex and Birth Control
At the end of the 20th century, the average number of children in a family had fallen to 1.7 from an average of 3.5 at the start of the century.
Dr Marie Stopes opened the United Kingdom's first family planning clinic in London in 1921. The Mother's Clinic, at 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway, offered a free service to married women. In 1925, the clinic moved to Whitfield Street in central London, where it remains today.
Marie Stopes created one of the greatest social impacts of the 20th century. Dr Stopes played a major part in removing taboos about sex, which began to improve people's knowledge about contraception and reproductive health. Interest in birth control methods continued to increase as the century progressed.
Condom vending machines were first introduced in the 1930s. A single condom was dispensed in an aluminium container, and cost 1 shilling. By 1934, there were 16 machines in London.
The birth control pill was developed in the 1950s. From 1961, women who wished to use the oral contraceptive could have it prescribed on the National Health Service. In 1998, it was estimated that over 3.25 million women in Great Britain were taking the Pill.
In the second half of the 20th century, the wider choices in birth control led to better education and an increased sexual freedom, especially for women. Changing outlooks have meant greater tolerance for different lifestyles, such as homosexuality. This has encouraged more self-expression, which in turn has influenced the fashions, music and culture of the 20th century.
In the United Kingdom, abortions were legalised by the Abortion Act, passed in 1967. Concern for the health of women who received illegal abortions had been growing since the 1930s. The dangers of 'back street' abortions was one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the new legislation, and was crucial in shaping public and parliamentary opinion.
In vitro fertilisation, or I.V.F, was widely introduced in 1978. By the beginning of the 21st century, over 16% of treatments resulted in the birth of a baby. There are a number of procedures that assist conception, enabling more people to make their own choices concerning reproduction.
During the 20th century, the spread of the AIDS and H.I.V. virus has again raised public awareness about sexually transmitted diseases. By the end of 2004, there were an estimated 58,300 adults living with H.I.V. in the United Kingdom, 34% of whom were unaware of their infection. Although medication can help delay the disease, there is still no cure for AIDS. In November 1982, the first AIDS organisation, the Terence Higgins Trust, was formally established in the United Kingdom.
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