Birth ControlBirth control has been a topic affecting women’s and men’s health, religion, sexuality and peace of mind for many years. Let me start with the history of birth control.
A variety of birth control methods have been used throughout history and across cultures. In ancient Egypt women used dried crocodile dung and honey as vaginal suppositories to prevent pregnancy. One of the earliest mentions of contraceptive vaginal suppositories appears in the Ebers Medical Papyrus, a medical guide written between 1550 and 1500 BC. The guide suggests that a fiber tampon moistened with an herbal mixture of acacia, dates, colocynth, and honey would prevent pregnancy. The fermentation of this mixture can result in the production of lactic acid, which today is recognized as a spermicidal (New Internationalist). Before the introduction of the modern birth control pill, women ate or drank various substances to prevent pregnancy or induce miscarriage. However, such folk remedies can be dangerous or even fatal.
In the last 4,000 years, we’ve come a long way toward safe and effective methods for contraception. Women don’t have to drink poisonous teas as they did in the middle ages. They don’t have to risk their health with painful douches as they did in Victorian Age. Men don’t have to paint their penises with pitch as they did in Egypt, heat their testicles as they did in Rome, or cut openings in the base of their penises to spill semen outside of the vagina during ejaculation as they still do in Australia (Riddle). Women and men don’t have to abstain from sex for fear of having more children than they can afford or of endangering a woman’s health with a high-risk pregnancy. A lot less has changed in the last fifty years. In the 1950s, only one out of eight couples in the world used a safe and effective method of family planning.
Today more two out of eight couples rely on modern methods of birth control to maintain the health and well-being of their families (Speroff).Margaret Sanger, an American nurse, pioneered the modern birth control movement in the United States. In 1912 she began publishing information about women’s reproductive concerns through magazine articles, pamphlets, and several books. In 1914 Sanger was charged with violation of the Comstock Law, federal legislation passed in 1873 prohibiting the mailing of obscene material including information about birth control and contraceptive devices. In defiance of the Comstock Law and despite being jailed for these activities, Sanger continued to publish and disseminate information about birth control.
She and her sister Ethel Byrne opened the first of several birth control clinics in America on October 16, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York. The Comstock Law was revised by Congress in 1936 to exclude birth control information and devices. Many states had laws prohibiting distribution or use of contraceptives but the constitutionality of these laws was increasingly questioned