At the beginning of this century Margaret Sanger, a socialist and feminist from New York City, coined the term ‘birth control’. Sanger and her colleagues saw birth control as a way of freeing women from the yearly tyranny of pregnancy and Margaret Sanger pioneered and pushed for funding to develop the world’s first birth–control pill, called Enovid-10, a synthetic combination of hormones that suppresses the release of eggs from a woman’s ovaries.
In 1952, the American biologist Gregory Pincus was invited by the Planned Parenthood Federation in the US to develop an ideal contraceptive. Nor did she hear from John Rock and Gregory Pincus, the doctors who developed the oral contraceptive with $3 million that Sanger had raised from her friend Katherine McCormick, the International Harvester heiress. Within a few years, an oral birth control pill was being tested on 6,000 women – not Americans but women from Puerto Rico and Haiti. In 1960, the first oral contraceptive (Evoid 10) was launched in the US market. The ‘Pill’ as it became known, heralded a revolution in birth control. Here, at last, women were told, was a both effective and safe. Women the world over embraced this new drug with enthusiasm. Within two years, The Pill was being used by 1.2 million women and a decade later the numbers had risen to ten million. (“A History of Reproduction, Contraceptives, and Control,” 1998)
Despite its popularity, there were nagging worries about health risks. As early as 1961 studies showed that The Pill carried the risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes due to high levels of the hormone estrogen. In 1962, there was evidence of at least 11 Pill-related deaths. Women activists in the US brought these dangers to public attention.
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