The History of the Birth Control Pill

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Allison Keating


From banned condoms and spermicide to today’s pills everyone has a right to, birth control has faced ample criticism and politicization. The development of a pill was not any less criticized or politicized. Poor, uneducated women faced exploitation and disregard of their suffering throughout the development of a birth control pill. Having a pill also was not originally for the sexual and reproductive liberation of women, but scientist Gregory C. Pincus and a physician named John C. Rock were desperate to develop a pill that would temporarily stop women from ovulating, in the hopes of achieving population control and preventing poverty. Margaret Sanger advocated for a simpler birth control that could be as easy as taking a pill. She supported Pincus and Rock, whose work was almost completely funded by Katherine McCormick, a wealthy feminist. Following trials, it has continued to develop, and today the pill is on its way to providing people of all genders sexual and reproductive freedom. From testing in mental health hospitals in Boston to the slums of Puerto Rico, eugenics has lingered behind the motivation of this celebrated pill and its history is often brushed away with celebrations of the reproductive freedom it offers. While the pill has liberated women since the 1960s, thousands of women were stolen of their liberty during its development.

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