When scientist Gregory Pincus first approached the pharmaceutical company G. D. Searle about funding research for an oral contraceptive, Searle's immediate response was no. In the early 1950s, the last thing Searle -- or any of the other major drug companies -- wanted to get involved in was the controversial area of birth control.
A Risky Pursuit
At this time, bringing a birth control product to market was a huge risk for any company. No one in the drug industry wanted to deal with the anti-birth control laws still on the books in 30 states. These statutes severely restricted the advertising and sale of any contraceptive product. There was also the issue of religious objections from the Catholic Church. The drug industry feared a potential boycott from Catholics, who comprised 25% of the American population. For Searle, a boycott could mean the loss of one fourth of its personnel and a considerable portion of its hospital business.
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