Dr Ruth hails the pill that revolutionized women's lives - Interview

World-renowned sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer has only words of praise as she marks the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill, which transformed women's lives and sexual relationships.

"We are all across the world very fortunate that that pill came on the market because it has revolutionized sexuality," the 1960s cultural icon told AFP in her familiar blunt fashion ahead of the May 9 anniversary.

"How wonderful that a woman doesn't have to worry all the time."

The tireless sexologist, who turns 82 next month, hailed the power the pill has given women in their relationships with men, no longer having to depend on their partner to avoid getting pregnant.

"Never would I have thought that in my lifetime there would be a pill like that," she said. "That assurance that in most cases it works, it's just fantastic."

Born Karola Ruth Siegel in Frankfurt in 1928 to an orthodox Jewish family, she fled Nazi Germany as a little girl. Her parents later died in the Holocaust. She emigrated to the United States in the 1950s.

The psychologist better known as Dr Ruth studied psychology at the Sorbonne, later earning a masters degree in sociology from New York's New School and a doctorate of education from Columbia University.

She completed post-doctoral study in human sexuality under the guidance of pioneering sex therapist Helen Singer Kaplan.

Dr Ruth shot to prominence in the early 1980s with her radio show "Sexually Speaking," bringing a dose of frank talk about sexual matters into US living rooms.

Every Sunday at midnight, the diminutive therapist, who stands just four feet, seven inches (1.4 meters) tall, unleashed her racy advice on the airwaves, on everything from homosexuality, masturbation, ejaculation and contraception - all delivered in her distinctive accent.

A professor at prestigious Yale and Princeton universities, Dr Ruth is also the author of a string of best-sellers, like "Sex for Dummies," which has been translated in 23 languages, and "Dr Ruth's Encyclopedia of Sex."

The pill "shouldn't be taken for granted by young people because it was such a big fight and such a revolutionary event that all of us have to be grateful," she said.

"Young people today can't even imagine that there was a world without the contraceptive pill."

In a rare reference to her tragic childhood, Dr Ruth noted that "I'm somebody who comes out of Nazi Germany and one thing that I have learned is you have to stand up and be counted for what you believe in."

She is a staunch backer of abortion rights, a political lightning rod in the United States.

"I would like abortion to be legalized," she said. "I'm very upset that it's still a political football."

But Dr Ruth has her doubts about prospects for a contraceptive pill for men.

"I doubt that we will ever get one," she said. "There was a pill that was tried and if they took a little bit of alcohol, they would get violently sick so that was the end of that pill."

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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