The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill was approved by the FDA in 1960, though at the time of its approval it had already been in wide use by a number of females throughout the United States as a treatment for a variety of other “menstrual disorders.” This breakthrough in biomedical technology can be traced throughout the 1900’s as shifts in American culture and values allowed its development and facilitated its demand. Margaret Sanger was the primary figure behind the American birth control movement from the start, as she fought in the face of disapproval by US legislatures for the dissemination of birth control information. Later, as the birth control pill began to be developed and tested further, many other chemists and medical doctors became involved in the process, including Drs. Pincus and Rock, and Chemists Russell Marker, Carl Djerassi, and Colton. At the time, the chemists behind the drug, progesterone, had not foreseen the future usage of this synthetic hormone that was developed. When Marker commented on the product, he stated “I was never interested in the use of the hormone, only in making it available. You just get curious, and you want to see how the end comes out. It’s like playing chess. You become interested in the outcome.”[1] Like Marker, people throughout America became captivated by the story of the development of the first form of oral contraceptive. What began as a matter of population control and family planning for low income individuals grew into a massive movement including upper and middle class women demanding oral contraceptives in the context of a sexual revolution in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

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