“The church has ever opposed the progress of woman on the ground that her freedom would lead to immorality. We ask the church to have more confidence in women.”Margaret Sanger, Co-Inventor of the Birth Control Pill & Founder, Planned Parenthood
Birth Control pills have an especially colorful history. Development of The Pill involved four protagonists.
Brilliant bio-met research Dr. Gregory Pincus focused on mammal reproduction. Dr. John Rock was an Ob-Gyn wishing to help his patients control their fertility. Margaret Sanger was the founder of Planned Parenthood and an outspoken eugenicist. Katharine McCormick was a wealthy socialite who believed in Sanger.
As a Harvard professor, Dr. Pincus had a promising career in reproductive science. He invented in-vitro fertilization and created a test-tube rabbit in 1934. Pincus allegedly then suggested to a reporter he could create test-tube babies, a quote he vehemently denied until his death. There was a public outcry and Pincus was denied tenure at Harvard as the popular press labeled him a real-life Frankenstein. Disgraced and displaced from academia, Pincus established his own research lab.
Margret Sanger found him Pincus and convinced him to help create a pill to regulate ovulation. Eventually, after a lot of work with animals, Pincus realized synthetic female hormones could theoretically trick women into believing they were pregnant, preventing ovulation and pregnancy.
To test the synthetic hormones, Sanger brought on Rock. Firstly, they asked female nursing students to try the pills. The side effects were terrible and all participants quit. Next, they tried the pills on women prisoners. Eventually, the prisoners soon refused, citing severe side effects. Subsequently, they tested the pills on women in Puerto Rico as a solution for infertility. They told the women to take the pills for a set amount of time then, after stopping, they’d be more likely to conceive a baby.
Thanks to their unsuspecting test subjects, the group gathered enough data to convince the US Food & Drug Administration to approve their synthetic hormone for use as a fertility treatment. Drug company Searle released their pill under the trade name Evovid. No sooner was Enovid approved than both Sanger advertised that the pills prevented pregnancy.
Eventually, in 1960, the FDA approved Enovid as a birth control pill.
Markedly, Searle’s Enovid, created by Pincus and Rock, produced strong side effects. It was quickly overtaken by an oral progesterone synthesized in 1951 by Dr. Carl Djerassi and produced by Syntex. Eventually, Djerassi became known as the “father of the pill”. Historians may have wanted to scrub the original record due to some of the questionable ethics of the original team. Djerassi became fabulously wealthy, despite having little involvement in the initial work.