The Surprising History Of Birth Control Pills

The Surprising History Of Birth Control Pills


– [Voiceover] In the early 1900s, contraception was illegal in America. A woman’s place was in the home, and effective methods of birth control were few and far between. A nurse named Margaret Sanger was working with struggling mothers and she realized that women should be able to
choose when they get pregnant and how many children they want to raise. In 1916, Sanger started the first birth control clinic in the United States. She felt that the best
way to empower women would be to provide them
with an easy to use, sure fire oral contraceptive, and 1942, her organization would become
known as Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t until the 1950s
when she met Gregory Pincus at a dinner party that Sanger’s dream started to become a reality. Pincus, an expert in
mammalian reproduction, teamed up with feminist and
heiress, Katharine McCormick, and they enlisted fertility
specialist John Rock. Pincus started to create
what we now call the pill. Scientists knew that the hormone progesterone could stop ovulation. However, progesterone proved
challenging to manufacture. Dr. Carl Djerassi, his
colleague Dr. George Rosenkranz, and student Luis E. Miramontes synthesized one of the first progestins, which Pincus and Rock used
during initial testing. But hormonal imbalances
caused patients to experience serious side effects and
many quit taking the drug. The testing pool grew
smaller and obscenity laws at the time prevented
advertising for volunteers. The pill was even tested
on psychiatric patients to monitor long-term effects. Treatment moved to Puerto Rico in 1955, where female sterilization was legal, and contraception was favored as a means to stem population growth. Though women continued
to report side effects, the experiments were
proclaimed 100% effective. Finally, Sanger’s wish had been achieved. The first birth control
pill was released in 1957, but the drug wasn’t approved
for its intended use by the FDA until 1960. The pill’s prevalence skyrocketed. By 1963, over 2.3 million women had sought prescriptions
in the United States. However, those state obscenity
laws and other regulations prevented women from
easily accessing the pill, and it was mainly made available
only to married couples. In 1972, a landmark supreme court ruling gave all women access to the pill. Research behind the
tiny scientific miracle has spawned an entire industry,
paving the way for Plan B, hormonal intrauterine devices,
the patch, and the ring. Globally, contraceptive
use has nearly doubled since the 1970s. As of this year, Washington, Oregon, and California now allow pharmacists to prescribe the pill over the counter. Several other states have
proposed similar legislation. As Margaret Sanger had hoped,
contraception gives women greater freedom over their life decisions, but this freedom can’t
be taken for granted. For example, 34% of
Planned Parenthood services are related to birth control. Defending universal
access to contraception is still a key element of
protecting women’s rights.

6 thoughts on “The Surprising History Of Birth Control Pills

  • The experimentation on the Puerto Rican women was unethically conducted, and fatal in several cases. Because of post-colonial dehumanization, Puerto Rican women's lives were considered expendable for the benefit of White Americans. It is unjust and unaccountable to sidestep this in the history of the pill.

  • I find it more surprising that people are pro-life but eat meat. You are advocating giving 'life' to something that isn't a life yet and cannot feel pain (1st trimester abortions, not 2nd trimester as they're describing here) but agreeing to kill a life that can feel pain?

  • This is stupid the human body already has a birth control method.
    This is all just to make money.
    Women ALWAYS could choose when they could get pregnant.

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