A History of Birth Control
Clearing Up Misconceptions
Feminism and Contraception continued...
"Sanger and her patron Katharine McCormick felt that not
only should women of all classes have quality birth control, but it should be a
type of birth control that women have power over. They felt the only way women
could be liberated was to have the unilateral power to control
McCormick's husband, Cyrus McCormick -- heir to the
International Harvester Company fortune -- was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Fearing that the disease was inherited, she resolved never to have children --
and dedicated huge sums to the search for woman-controlled contraception.
This research resulted in the development of the birth control
pill. Early versions of the pill contained huge doses of estrogen -- and were
approved after clinical tests that would be considered totally inadequate by
today's standards for drug approval. The high rate of side effects from the
pill -- and the later scandal involving the aggressive marketing and defense of
the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, despite the manufacturer's knowledge of
safety problems -- led many women to question why birth control had to be aimed
at women instead of men.
Full Circle to Today's World
Today it is well known that the condom is the only effective
barrier to HIV and to many -- but not all -- other sexually transmitted
diseases, or STDs.
Despite this, neither condoms nor other forms of contraception
are used consistently by those who most need them. Some numbers, released in
July 2001 by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher:
- Nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended.
- Every year, 12-15 million Americans are infected with a new STD.
- Nearly 1 million Americans are infected with the AIDS virus -- and a third
of these people don't even know it.
- According to the CDC, more than 65 million U.S. residents now are living
with an incurable sexually transmitted disease.
"I would like to say today more men and women are turning
to condoms as the answer to STDs, but the evidence shows that we are not seeing
a dramatic increase in condom use equal to the dramatic increase in STDs,"
Tone says. "Before the pill, the condom was the most common method of birth
control. Now people say men won't do this, but that hasn't always been the
case. Today, two-thirds of condoms are purchased by women. Maybe men in the
very recent past didn't enjoy taking charge of fertility, but they did it
anyway. If we can change perceptions, maybe that time can come back