A Brief History of Birth Control

Carl Djerassi, the chemist credited with creating the very first oral birth control pill (so many thanks to this man), passed away on Friday, January 30 after a battle with cancer. Though his name may not be widely known, his scientific contributions absolutely changed the face of modern sexuality. 

In honor of  Djerassi's life and work, take a look back at the history of birth control. From condoms made of animal intestines to the Plan B "morning after" pill, we've certainly come a long way:

3000 B.C.: The very first use of condoms, then made of fish bladders, linen sheaths, and animal intestines, is documented. 

1550 BCE: According to ancient texts, women in Egypt and Mesopotamia place honey, acacia leaves and lint into their vaginas to block sperm.

1855: Rubber condoms hit the market after Charles Goodyear (yes, the same Charles Goodyear the tire company is named after) perfected the rubber vulcanization process in 1839.

1873: The U.S. Congress passes a federal act, best known as the Comstock Law, that banned the postal service from delivering contraceptives, labeling them "obscene" materials.

1909: The first intrauterine birth control device, made from silkworm gut, is developed by Richard Richter.

1916: Nurse and birth control advocate Margaret Sanger opens the doors of the very first birth control clinic in the United States. She was eventually arrested for distributing information about contraception. 

1938: A judge lifts the ban on birth control, ending the Comstock era.

1951: Djerassi develops progestin norethisterone, the main chemical formula present in oral birth control.

1965: The Supreme Court grants married couples the right to use birth control in Griswold v. Connecticut. Unmarried women were still legally not allowed to use contraception. 

1972: The Supreme Court legalizes birth control for all U.S. citizens, single or married, in Eisenstadt v. Baird.    

1988: Copper IUD Paragard is first marketed in the United States.

1990: Norplant, a birth control implant that is placed under the skin of a woman's upper arm, is introduced. It was later taken off the market in 2002.

1993: Reality, one of the first female condoms, is introduced.

1999: Plan B, the "morning after pill," first hits shelves.

2001: Nuvaring, a hormonal contraceptive vaginal ring, becomes available.

2013: Edward R. Korman, a federal district judge in Brooklyn, rules that Plan B should be available over-the-counter to any and all who seek it, without age restriction. Korman's controversial decision overturns a 2011 ruling by the FDA and immediately faces threats of a challenge from the Justice Department. Two months later, however, the Obama administration announces that it would no longer fight to overturn Korman's ruling and Plan B would remain available to women of all ages.

The Future: So, what's next? Apparently male birth control may be coming to a drug store shelf near you by 2017.
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