It’s hard to decide which is the crazier part of birth control pills’ journey from experimental contraception to a federally approved drug. Was it when they were tested on non-consenting, male patients at mental hospitals — or when some women were given the pill as a treatment for infertility?
Development on the birth control pill began in 1950, when Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger approached a scientist named Gregory Pincus to begin work on a reliable, easy-to-use contraceptive. Pincus was working at an independent lab in Massachusetts, the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology.
What happens next is, honestly, a bit unbelievable. The pill ultimately became an integral and important resource for millions of women, allowing them to take control of their fertility, their families, and their lives. But the path to building this-now ubiquitous drug was paved with questionable ethics and dodgy research methods that would never pass muster today. The creators of birth control are responsible for developing a revolutionary contraceptive — but they misled their test subjects, many of whom were not equipped to give consent, along the way.