Thank my pro-feminist boyfriend for this entry. I was looking for an idea for a blog and he reminded me that it's women's history month! Happy March! :) With all the hoopla related to Planned Parenthood, I decided to look into the birth control aspect of Women's History.
Apparently, according to this site, condoms (both animal skin and "vulcanized rubber") were around as early as the turn of the 20th century, but they were not widely used because they were associated with sexual promiscuity. The sponge was also an option, but they were sometimes dipped in substances that were actually very dangerous to women- vinegar, lemon, astringents (ah!).
I truly believe that the inventors of oral contraceptives deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. I learned that Margaret Sanger, a women's rights advocate, underwrote the research necessary to create the first women's contraceptive and raised $150,000 for the project, after it was learned that hormones prevented ovulation in rabbits. Frank Colton invented the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, which was marketed in 1960. I'd give him a huge hug if he hadn't died in 2003!
Thank god for these people. I actually think a lot about how the entire act of sex has been changed thanks to reliable birth control. As an unmarried, sexually active 22 year old, I know that I wouldn't be able to live my life in the same way 50+ years ago. It is truly incredible that I can have sex without undergoing dangerous, unreliable forms of birth control or having dangerous abortions as preventative birth control.
When I think about Planned Parenthood, I get very conflicted. The evidence I've been reading against them isn't great - especially the fact that they're making millions of dollars in profit even though they are technically a non-profit. But the idea of people without health insurance being unable to get cheap/free birth control, STD testing and gynecological exams really sickens me. Stopping unwanted pregnancies is one of the most fool-proof ways to stop poverty in this country.
I agree with bell hooks on this point 100% - you can decide for yourself that you won't have an abortion, but to be a feminist you need to believe in legalized abortions. Period.