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A birth control pill for men?

Not all feminists agreed that women should relinquish contraceptive responsibility to men.  In fact, from the very beginning of their efforts to develop the birth control pill, Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick were adamant that contraception be entirely in the hands of women.   McCormick said she “didn’t give a hoot for a male contraceptive.”[xiv] The two pioneers strongly believed that women should decide when and if they wanted to have babies, and that they should have a safe and effective means to prevent pregnancy.  They pushed for the pill because it would give women that control.

Within a few years of the pill’s FDA approval, however, risks and side effects that Sanger and McCormick had not anticipated became apparent.  By the mid-1960s, angry women were writing to John Rock and Gregory Pincus demanding a pill for men.  “Why don’t you men take the contraceptive pills?” wrote one irate woman.  “Stop making us – the women – guinea pigs in this experiment….Why don’t men mature and understand that there are desires in life besides excessive use of your love-stick?”  Another wrote, “Why is it that the billions of words being written, printed, [and] spoken now on the subject of the Population Explosion [are] directed to WOMEN?  All about what Women can and should DO, but NOT ONE WORD have I read or heard directed towards MEN.”   One letter writer suggested clamps for men “such as cattlemen use on bulls.”  A mother of three and grandmother of nine wrote in 1963, “The women more than do their share.  The men are the most passionate, so why not control them for a change?…Please let us women have a rest from pills and put the cure where it belongs – on men.”  Rock responded with the optimism characteristic of the researchers at the time: “It will not be long now when you can feel that you are getting even.”[xv]