McCormick, a brilliant feminist who was the second woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, bankrolled the pill out of a commitment to women’s rights. But as May writes, the scientists and doctors who developed the pill never envisioned it as an agent of female emancipation. Rather, they “hailed it as a miracle drug that would solve the global problem of overpopulation, thereby reducing poverty and human misery, especially in the developing world.” They also hoped it would improve marital sex and domestic harmony, strengthening the nuclear family.
In other words, they saw it as a tool for preserving existing power relations, not shaking them up. (…)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Black Power leaders denounced the pill as a tool of black genocide — rhetoric often echoed by today’s anti-abortion movement. (…)
Though May doesn’t say it, right-wing opposition to the pill has probably helped temper earlier left-wing objections. As she points out, Our Bodies Ourselves, the feminist health bible, was deeply skeptical of the pill throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but by 2005, with new, low-dose formulations on the market and the culture wars in full swing, the book sang the pill’s praises…