Birth control is a common thing today since over 60% of women of reproductive age are currently using contraception. While many people consider it as a panacea to women’s freedom and gender equality, its history is laden with deception and exploitation of poor and powerless women. Here are some facts about the origin of birth control that may shock you:
The woman behind the idea of birth control was a major proponent of eugenics
Margaret Sanger, the woman behind the idea of essentially turning on and off the woman’s reproductive system, was a major supporter of the eugenics movement. She wanted to control women from giving birth because she believed that there were certain types of people who did not deserve to be born or live such as those with mental or physical disabilities, illiterates, criminals, etc. Apart from these “undesirables”, Sanger also wanted to, in her own words, “exterminate the Negro population”.
Sanger was unabashed for her support to eradicate the world of people with color as she proudly addressed the women of the Ku Klux Klan in 1926. For Sanger, birth control was the means to wipe out the “undesirables”.
Sanger collaborated with biologist Gregory Pincus to carry out one of the most unethical scientific experiments in history
To carry out her desire to prevent “undesirable” populations from breeding, Sanger worked with controversial biologist Gregory Pincus who was known for his work in mammal reproduction, to create a cheap birth control pill. Pincus was able to come up with a medicine that prevented pregnancy among his laboratory animals. To assess if it would also work on women, Pincus and Sanger, through the deep pockets of Procter & Gamble heir Clarence Gamble, ran a secret clinical trial using poor Puerto Rican women as subjects in 1955.
Women subjected to the secret trial experienced many side-effects which were merely dismissed. The unethical and unsafe trial did not stop here, Pincus, Sanger, and Gamble eventually conducted a second trial using women and men in mental asylums without consent.
Isn’t it ironic that birth control was regarded as the best tool for giving women freedom but it shackled and abused defenseless women just to create it?