HISTORY MEME | 1/3 Inventions  → The Pill

Combined oral contraceptives, commonly known as “the pill”, were introduced to the public in the 1960s, however research on similar things had been going on in years prior. Although Gregory Pincus is commonly credited with inventing this form of birth control, it took the combined efforts of many to make the idea a reality, especially seeing as early on it met with opposition from the Catholic Church and state laws.

In 1951, Margaret Sanger, the very woman who coined the term “birth control” years before, still had not been able to achieve her goal of having easily accessible birth control in the form of a simple pill. Then she met Pincus, a scientist who was studying hormonal biology. After being given a grant from Planned Parenthood and funds from Sanger’s associate Katherine McCormick, he began to research birth control. Working together with Min Chueh Chang, another biologist, Pincus figured out that a hormone called progesterone could prevent ovulation in rabbits.

Testing of the pill was vital to its approval. Trials in humans began in 1953 on a small scale in Massachusetts. In 1956, Dr. Edris Rice-Wray led trials of the pill, known then as Enovid, in Puerto Rico. This trial as well as later ones used a different but more effective synthetic hormone similar to progesterone. The FDA approved Enovid for use as a contraceptive in June of 1960.

However, this was not the end as the pill was still not accessible to everyone. In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Griswold v. Connecticut case, and ruled that contraception should be legal for married women in all states. Seven years later, with the advent of Eisenstadt v. Baird, it became legal for unmarried persons to possess and use contraception.

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