Although medical history has documented the desire to control fertility since ancient times, safe and effective contraception did not exist until this century and has not been equally available to all people. Strong moral sentiments, economic and social class factors, religious beliefs, familial and gender relations, and political as well as legal constraints have often limited the ability of physicians in favor of contraception to provide advice and methods of birth control to their patients. By the early 1900s, a constellation of factors—in particular, the large influx of poor immigrants, and feminist groups advocating women’s rights—helped to move forward a birth-control movement in this country and abroad. In the early 20th century, Margaret Sanger became one of the most avid proponents of contraception in the United States. By 1950, she and Katharine McCormick had contracted with biologist Gregory Pincus to develop an effective birth control pill. A collaborative effort by Pincus and other researchers led to trials of the pill in Puerto Rico, Haiti, and Mexico between 1956 and 1957, which provided the basis for an application to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of the first oral contraceptive.
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