The Birth of the Pill

1012-bks-CARMON-sub-master495Irin Carmon at The New York Times:

By the time Eig’s book opens in 1950, Sanger had fixed her obsession on a contraceptive pill to feed the masses. Along with what Eig sets up as “a group of brave, rebellious misfits,” Sanger helped find the secret by harnessing something simple, something women’s bodies already did when pregnant: not ovulate. Then, as now, the biological problem was largely solved; all that remained was politics. That was a lot. It still is.

Eig’s timing is fortunate; Americans are currently fighting new variations on the same battle, one that has never quite receded but, for political and legal reasons, is under a brighter spotlight than ever. It was one thing to invent the pill and get it approved. It has been quite another for women to have actual access to the contraception that’s right for them, what with this country’s byzantine system of health care delivery and our even more contorted sexual politics.

The creation story of oral contraception, along with the social upheavals attributed to it, is not new territory. The life of Sanger, who founded the precursor to Planned Parenthood, is well documented too, including in a 2013 graphic novel by Peter Bagge, “Woman Rebel,” and a 1992 biography by Ellen Chesler, “Woman of Valor.” Eig, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, brings a lively, jocular approach to the story, casting an unlikely four-part ensemble comedy starring Sanger; the iconoclastic lead scientist, Gregory Goodwin Pincus; the Roman Catholic physician John Rock; and the supplier of cash behind it all, Katharine McCormick.

more here.