Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The History Of Birth Control In The U.S.


Reproductive rights advocates are urging the FDA to make birth control pills available without a prescription. Almost 70 percent of women say access to birth control is a matter of health care, according to a Bloomberg poll.

On the other end of the political spectrum, there was the Blunt Amendment which would have allowed any employer – not just religion-based organizations – to opt out of the health reform requirement that their plan provide free contraceptives for employees.

Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut after she spoke in favor of birth control coverage for medical purposes. And candidate Rick Santorum has said in the past that if he makes it to the White House he’ll be addressing “the dangers of contraceptives.”

Today’s hand-wringing about birth control is nothing new.

Did you know, for instance, that the birth control pill was not allowed in Massachusetts as recently as 1970? At one point, the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP charged that Planned Parenthood clinics were in effect using the pill as an instrument of racial genocide.

Andrea Tone, professor of history & Canada Research Chair in the social history of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, says that when the pill was first put on the market, there was a unique debate.

“People weren’t sure if women would buy it, if doctors would prescribe it and then what was absolutely fascinating is it practically flew off the shelves,” she told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.


  • Andrea Tone, professor of history & Canada Research Chair in the social history of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and author of “Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

Experts share a range of perspectives on how to combat the Islamic State militant group, and the role the U.S. should play.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

November 24 7 Comments

Ferguson: One Year Later

City council member Wesley Bell looks back on the past year since protests and violence swept the Missouri city.

November 24 3 Comments

Sam Sifton’s Tips For A Happy, Delicious Thanksgiving For All

The New York Times' food editor talks about his favorite dishes and how to accommodate everyone without going crazy.

November 23 3 Comments

James Taylor Is ‘Gobsmacked’ By Medal Of Freedom Honor

The five-time Grammy winner looks back on his career, ahead of receiving the country's highest civilian honor.

November 23 29 Comments

How To Travel While Black During Jim Crow

A postal worker created a guide for black travelers that was published almost every year from 1936 to 1966.