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Being able to control our reproduction is required for controlling what our lives can look like. The invention of and widening access to the pill in the 1950s and 1960s changed possibilities for women’s lives—something that remains true today. Indeed, the vast majority of women and transmasculine people in the U.S. have either been on the pill or know someone who has. But the history of birth control is more complicated than these narratives make clear. In the 1950s, researchers were looking for people they could test their new oral contraceptives on, but the legal, religious, and political terrain in the U.S. at the time made this difficult. Then, researchers learned that officials in Puerto Rico already supported birth control, viewing it as a means of population control and a way to curb poverty. With no anti-birth control laws in place and 67 popular clinics already dispensing other forms of birth control, Puerto Rico became the site of the pill’s clinical trials. Researchers recruited poor women, many of whom weren’t formally educated, through promising that the medication would prevent pregnancy. The women were not informed about the experimental nature of the drugs nor the risks. In these early clinical trials, the pills contained much higher doses of hormones than do pills on the market today. Participants experienced drastic side effects and three women died, but no investigations were conducted to see if the deaths were connected to the pill. While birth control has gotten increasingly safe, many contraceptives still have significant side effects, the brunt of which are born by women and people with uteruses. The rest of the text associated with this hole focuses on the efficacy and side effects of various forms of modern contraception—two things we should never discuss outside of the racist and classist history of the pill’s development.

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