For the first time in three decades, American women have access to a new, effective birth control option offering greater control over their reproductive lives and the possibility of quelling the furor over abortion. Norplant, a surgical implant approved by the Food and Drug Administration this week, is in essence a new way of introducing pregnancy-preventing hormones into a woman's system. Its effectiveness and longevity make it far superior to existing methods.
A small fan-like arrangement of soft tubes implanted under a woman's skin protects against pregnancy for five years and can be easily removed once a woman decides to conceive. Because it eliminates human error, the biggest factor in birth control failures, Norplant is incredibly effective with a reported failure rate one-tenth to one twentieth that of contraceptive pills.
This new method isn't without caveats. Norplant cannot be used by some women with certain health problems and has been known to cause annoying side effects in others. The full implications of long-term use are not yet known.