— By Elizabeth Gettelman in MotherJones.com
A timeline of controlling birth ...
c. 1500 BC Genesis describes how God kills Onan after he "wasted his seed on the ground" during coitus interruptus. (See "Thou Shalt Not Spill.")
c. 1500 BC Egyptian experts suggest mixing ground dates, acacia bark, and honey as a spermicide and crocodile dung as an anti-pregnancy suppository.
100 Greek gynecologist Soranus recommends that women hold their breath and jump backward seven times after sex to prevent pregnancy. Sneezing also advised.
c. 700 Muhammad endorses withdrawal during sex.
1000 Contraception gets medieval: European women wear bones from the right sides of black cats around their necks to avoid pregnancy.
1554 John Calvin calls masturbation "monstrous" and withdrawal "doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."
1727 In "Conjugal Lewdness: or, Matrimonial Whoredom," Daniel Defoe compares contraception to infanticide.
1789 In his memoirs, Casanova describes prophylactics known as "English riding coats" and a lemon-rind diaphragm.
1798 The Reverend Thomas Malthus advocates the "temporary unhappiness" of abstinence to slow down population growth.
1832 Dr. Charles Knowlton is arrested in Massachusetts for publishing information about contraception. His defense: "Mankind ought not to abstain."
1839 Barrier-method contraceptives like condoms and diaphragms are revolutionized by Charles Goodyear's invention of vulcanized rubber.
1861 First condom ad (for Dr. Powers' French Preventative) in the New York Times: "Those who have used them are never without them."
1869 Pope Pius IX (right) bans abortion, saying the soul is born at conception.
1870s Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other feminists promote "voluntary motherhood," advocating abstinence as the best form of birth control.
1873 Postal inspector Anthony Comstock crusades against "obscenity" such as birth control. The Comstock Act, which prohibits mailing contraceptives or information about them, remains in effect until 1965.
1914 Margaret Sanger's pro-contraception tract The Woman Rebel is banned as obscene under the Comstock Act. Sanger (left) coins the term "birth control" later that year. In the 1930s, she becomes a eugenicist.
1917-18 18,000 STD-ridden doughboys take sick; US military distributes condoms.
1920s Contraceptives sold as "feminine hygiene" products. Douching with Lysol promoted as a way "to help protect your married happiness."
1930 Anglican Church becomes the first to approve of birth control that is "in the light of Christian principles." Six months later, Pope Pius XI deems birth control a "grave sin."
1933 Nazi Germany outlaws abortion and bans contraceptive ads. 400,000 Germans labeled "inferior" undergo forced sterilization.
1936 A federal appeals court rules that doctors can send contraceptives through the mail.
1937 The American Medical Association recognizes birth control as a legitimate part of a doctor's practice.
1952 John D. Rockefeller III, father of four, founds the Population Council: "Our concern is for the quality of human life, not the quantity of human life."
1959 President Eisenhower says promoting birth control "is not a proper political or governmental activity." He changes his mind 9 years later: "Governments must act...Failure would limit the expectations of future generations to abject poverty and suffering."
1960 FDA approves the pill.
1965 The Supreme Court rules in Griswold v. Connecticut that contraceptive bans violate the "right to marital privacy." Unmarried peoples' right to privacy isn't recognized until 1972.
1966 Papal commission on birth control votes to allow contraception, but Pope Paul VI keeps ban in place.
1967 Black Power Conference denounces the birth control pill as "black genocide."
1973 Contraceptive use in the US peaks, with 70% of married women 15 to 44 using some form.
1973 Building off privacy right affirmed by Griswold, Roe v. Wade legalizes abortion. Helms Amendment (still in effect) bans US funding of abortion abroad.
1974 Henry Kissinger advocates restricting food aid to poor nations to curb their growth.
1976 Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi forces millions of poor men to be sterilized.
1979 China introduces its "one child" policy, leading to compulsory birth control and abortions.
1988 China is the first country to license mifepristone as an abortion pill. In 2000, the FDA approves it as RU-486.
1991 Ten days after Magic Johnson says he has HIV, Fox airs the nation's first condom ad.
1993 Female condom fails to catch on, in part because it's too noisy. Quieter version released in 2009.
1993 The Netherlands requires sex ed and promotes going "Double Dutch"—using both the pill and condoms.
1999 FDA approves prescription emergency contraceptive Plan B.
2008 Federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed hits $214 million. Teen pregnancy rate rises after a 15-year decline.
The Pill's 50th Birthday Party