Posted: June 23, 2015 Contributor: PRJKT RUBY

A Brief History of Birth Control and What it Means for Women’s Rights

In the days prior to “the pill,” sex without consequence was something most women could never imagine. If they were not trying to become pregnant, sex became an act that was filled with concern regarding whether or not a pregnancy would result.

Without hormonal contraceptives, women and men were forced the rely on less effective methods of pregnancy prevention like the withdrawal method.

With the development of the birth control pill, however, women became empowered to make their own decisions, take control of their bodies and engage in sexual activity without the looming threat of unwanted pregnancy hanging so heavily over their heads.

In order to understand where we are today, let’s take a look back to the primitive start of contraception and how it evolved to the modern day pill we now know (and many now trust).

Source for all timeline stats: 

Circa 3000 B.C. – Early condoms are developed using natural materials like animal intestines, linen sheaths and fish bladders,

Circa 1500 – The first spermicide techniques are introduced. Linen sheaths are coated in a chemical substance and dried prior to use to kill sperm.

1838 – Diaphragms and condoms are now made from vulcanized rubber.

1873 – Advertisements, information and birth control distribution are all prohibited in the United States as a result of the passing of the Comstock Act. The postal service is allowed to confiscate any of these materials if found in their mail.

1916 – The first birth control clinic in the United States is opened by Margaret Sanger, it wasn’t without difficulty however. The next year she was found guilty of “maintaining a public nuisance” and was placed in jail for 30 days. After she was released she reopened her clinic and continued to be faced with several arrests.

1938 – The Comstock era is overturned. In a case involving Margaret Sanger, the judge lifts the federal ban on birth control. Diaphragms increase in popularity.

1950 – Sanger raises $150,000 for a project that would allow her to underwrite the research necessary for first birth control pill.

1960 – Enovid, the first birth control pill, is approved by the FDA.

1965 – The Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut grants married couples the right to use birth control. Unmarried women in 26 states however are still denied birth control access.

1968 – IUDs (intrauterine devices) are approved.

1970 – Feminists challenge the safety of the pill. As a result, the formulation of the pill changes and the package insert is now  included with the medication.

1972 – Birth control is available to all women regardless of marital status due to the Supreme Court case of Baird v. Eisenstadt).

1974 – The sale of popular IUD (the Dalkon Shield) is restricted by the FDA due to infections and documentations of 7 deaths by users. Throughout the next few years, most IUDs are taken off the market.

1980s – Low dose hormone pills are introduced as well as a new copper IUD (ParaGard).

1990s – The following are introduced in this decade = the first contraceptive implant, female condom, injectable birth control  and emergency contraceptive (Plan B).

2000s – Safety and effectiveness of many birth control methods improves.

2002 – First implant device (Norplant) is taken off the market.

2010s – ella is introduced. This new form of emergency contraception allows women 5 days (rather than Plan B’s 3 days) to take EC to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It also doesn’t lose efficacy as time passes within the 5 days. A new copper IUD is released and widely used.

2013 – Plan B is now available over-the-counter and hits pharmacy shelves across the U.S.

Today the battle to make birth control available to women worldwide continues. By taking part in Project Ruby’s take one, give one  program, you are helping more women gain access to birth control in the developing world.