It hasn’t been all that long that women have had complete control over their own sex lives, meaning they had the option of whether or not to use birth control. Of course abstinence has always been an option, but it’s not always the most desired one. On this Throwback Thursday, let’s take a minute to look back at the ways in which women fought to protect their right to decide if they wanted to become pregnant or not.
Before the modern condom as we know it to be existed, condoms were made from common materials like fish bladders and animal intestines during the time around 3000 BC. By the time the year 1500 rolled around, the condom as a method of birth control had become slightly more advanced. Condoms made from linen cloth were soaked in a chemical solution and dried before people used them. What they were soaked in was the first spermicide. Finally, in 1838, both condoms and diaphragms were made from vulcanized rubber.
In 1873 the Comstock Act was passed in the United States. This act banned advertisements, information and the distribution of birth control. The postal service actually had permission to confiscate any form of birth control they found being sent via the mail. Margaret Sanger was a big name in the fight to prevent practices that were legal under the Comstock Act. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. However, in 1917, she was charged with causing a public nuisance and was sent to jail for a month. Despite this run in with the law, Sanger re-opened the clinic after her stint in prison.
Sanger’s multiple arrests and perseverance eventually led to progress in 1938 when a judge lifted the federal ban on birth control. This ruling negated the Comstock Act and made diaphragms one of the most common forms of birth control. Even in her 80s, Sanger was still making progress. She raised $150,000 for the project that would conduct research for creating the first birth control pill for human use. Ten years after research like this, in 1960, the FDA approved Enovid as the first oral contraceptive.
Lots of activity around the fight for birth control happened during the 1960s & 1970s. In 1965, the Supreme Court gave married couples the right to choose to use birth control. Despite this, there were still millions of single women in the United States who didn’t have the right to use contraceptives. This inequality didn’t last too much longer, though, because in 1972, anyone, regardless of their marital status, were legally allowed to use birth control.
Because of the remarkable progress made for women’s rights and birth control during the years leading up to the 1980s, more variation in types and methods of contraceptives have been created in the last 30 years. During the 1980s, a low hormone version of an oral contraceptive was developed for the benefit of women. In the 1990s, important developments were made in methods such as an implantable contraceptive and Plan B emergency contraceptive. As we move into the future, more research needs to be done in the areas of birth control for men and more methods of contraceptives that are controlled by women and protect them against STIs.