The birth control pill is so common today that most of us don’t give it much thought. It’s just always been something most of us have had available to us.
I mean sure it can be annoying to remember to take it every day but have you ever really sat back and thought about how this magical little pill came to be in the first place?
Most people think it has to do with women’s rights and taking control of their bodies. But that isn’t the case at all. It’s less about women’s reproductive rights, and far more about popular control and poverty. I would even go as far as to say the history of birth control was downright scandalous.
It all began in the 1950s in Puerto Rico, a place that has quite a dark past on its own. And it was the hotbed of research and testing for the modern-day birth control pill. Not because they had the best medical facilities or anything like that. But because most of the women were poor and didn’t have much of a choice.
Birth control was seen as a way to control the population. But what could you do to stop women from having children when abstinence didn’t work? Well, back then the only real answer was sterilization.
Well, that’s only after abstinence didn’t work. They used this phrase, “voluntary motherhood”, which became the new moral standard and social principle which shall be the foundation of a new glorified womanhood. It was really just their way to sort of pressure women to do the right thing and not have sex before marriage. But we all know abstinence doesn’t work, so that’s when they introduce sterilization.
I mean sure there was the iron chastity belt, but we had long since passed medical times, so what other choice did medical professionals really have?
In the early 20th century, at a time when matters surrounding family planning or women’s healthcare were not spoken in public, Margaret Sanger founded the birth control movement and became an outspoken and life-long advocate for women’s reproductive rights. In her later life, Sanger spearheaded the effort that resulted in the modern birth control pill by 1960.
Sounds like a great ‘girl power’ story, right?
Well, not so much.
Margaret Sanger had 11 siblings and her mom passed away early in life, leaving poor Margaret to care for all those kids. She was a nurse and really did want to work towards making healthcare better for women.
She had her newspaper known as ‘The Women Rebel’ and popularized the term birth control.
She wrote articles and speeches to promote her way of thinking, which was that overpopulation leads to poverty. If you could cure the problem of overpopulation, you would end poverty. This became one of her life goals, to provide women with the birth control facility so poverty could be eradicated globally.
Women didn’t just have birth control, but at that time, there was an option of sterilization which was a permanent process and not something easier to get, and Margaret being the way she was, wanted something that was convenient for the women. Something that women can take at home, such as a pill. She needed the right people to get this magical pill into production.
She knew what she wanted, she just didn’t have the means to do it herself.
The problem is, in order to test new medication you had to test it on people and that’s when they looked to the women of Puerto Rico.
The Formation of the Trio: Sangar, Gamble & Pincus
With the fantastic ideas she had for women’s healthcare, she needed the correct type of people who would be willing to help achieve what she had planned. She needed a good investment and regulation of power so the process could begin. One of the people she got in touch with was Mr Clarence Gamble, the owner of P&G and DUPONT, who at the time was quite the billionaire. He and Margaret have similar beliefs towards Overpopulation and Poverty having a link together.
Mr Gamble got interested in Birth Control Pills to decrease births and take control over the rising population, which they believed was a problem. Margaret knew Clarence was the perfect man for the job with their aligned beliefs. Another added benefit of asking Mr Gamble for help because he had been building women’s health clinics worldwide to keep the rate of population in poor communities lower. What great timing!
Now Margaret had the idea, and she had an investor. Now she needed someone who had the brains. That’s when she found out about the scientist Gregory Pincus, obsessed with reproduction and had something similar with Margaret and Gamble that was his concerns of the rising population worldwide. She was impressed with his resume and decided to work with him. So, with the help of Gamble’s funding and clinics, Margaret’s idea and Pincus’s brain, these three were in business, and the process of making the famous Pill now began!
Where Was The Pill Tested?
Whenever an item is launched in the market, scientists make sure they test the product before ultimately launching the product if it’s a success or else it’s discarded. This was when Puerto Rico came into the picture. The Trio used this place to test their product on, pretty indecent! The Real Question is, Why was the Pill Tested on the people of Puerto Rico? Keep reading to find out why!
Why Was Birth Control Tested on Puerto Ricans?
You are now aware that there is some dark history behind Puerto Rica; it’s about to be uncovered. This area became the base of where it all started; people from here were tested, and here are three reasons why:
- There weren’t any laws in Puerto Rico regarding birth control pills.
- It was a densely populated area in the world.
- There was a network of clinics there to make testing pretty easy since Gamble funded these clinics.
- The women here weren’t very educated, and Gregory Pincus believed that if the women in Puerto Rico discovered how to take the pill, they could be taken by any woman worldwide. A concept to debate on, but it is what it is!
- The women weren’t given a choice and birth control seemed like the perfect idea because they were made to believe that if the population increased then their is a higher chance that poverty will increase too, hence birth control was the perfect idea at that time for Puerto Rican women.
But there is more to it, the pill wasn’t a major success and hence had a pretty adverse effect on the women. Lets find out what it was, keep reading!
The Government’s Role in The Birth Control Pill
In 1937, the Puerto Rican Government made the connection that overpopulation meant poverty. They believed that if there were more poor people, then the rich people would decrease. This was a pretty similar belief to the Trio, that was Margaret, Pincus and Gamble. At that time, the government in power was forcing women to go for sterilization, and the women were instructed to get their tubes tied so the government could control overpopulation. The Puerto Rico government pushed this propaganda and said that if any individual does not have a small family, they will ultimately become poor, making Puerto Rico poor too.
The people were made to believe all this just so their thoughts could align with the governments. Are you shocked because so are we! People were taught this to people of all ages and how they couldn’t succeed if not getting sterilization done. This process became so common that even in factories where women worked, there were small clinics to get their sterilization done with ease. This was treated as an only option, but women believed this was their way out when the pill came out. This was an advantage of Sanger, Gamble and Pincus, where they knew these women had no way out except conveniently swallowing the pill.
In 1995, Pincus made the pill and started testing in smaller villages in Puerto Rico, and all these trials were very secretive. The women who had given birth in Gambles clinics were given an easy way out and were told about the pill. Since they weren’t that educated, they believed this was their easy way out! But there is so much more to the medication, and that is its lasting effects.
A woman, Dona Maria, told in a documentary that people from the clinics went door to door talking about the magic pill that stopped pregnancy and since the propaganda was pretty popular at that time women chose the pill so they could find an easy way out and this conditioned them to agree. From getting their tubes tight to just swallowing a pill, the pill seemed like a better option. This had a major effect on the people of Puerto Rico, scroll below to find out!
The Effects of The Birth Control Pill:
The Birth Control Pill turned out to be a major fail because of how it affected women’s health; the pills trials went on in 1964 in Puerto Rico even though the pill had been released publicly. What is the back story? Three women died during practices, and they weren’t even told they were just test subjects. This helps us conclude how the scientists running the tests on these women using trials were just more concerned with the success rate and not all these women who became a test subject against their own will. Pretty cruel. It sure is! It was a mix of racism and white supremacy!
The Birth Control Pill and Beyond!
Fast-forwarding it to today, the birth control story has so much to give. It’s a story that provides us with the know-how that the United States treated the people of Puerto Rico as nothing. Still, guinea pigs and Margaret Sanger and other involved scientists were nothing but a piece of the puzzle of Dark History. We can easily conclude how the weak and vulnerable are tested to make the lives of the rich more comfortable, harsh reality but the truth, you need to swallow!
Even though its purpose is to serve women to take charge, many women have contributed so much to make our lives easier! It is dark and beyond!