Posted: Mar 23, 2016 08:39 AM PDT
Updated: May 13, 2016 08:41 AM PDT
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that comes from unlikely quarters: an order of nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor. At issue is the law's requirement that group health plans provide a full range of contraceptive coverage to women at no cost. With this issue in the news, take a look at some of the important moments in birth control history.
1550 B.C. -- An Egyptian manuscript called the Ebers Papyrus tells women how to mix dates, acacia and honey into a paste, smear it over wool and use it as a pessary to prevent contraception.
1700s -- Notable womanizer Casanova includes in his memoirs details of his experimental forms of birth control, including the use of half a lemon as a primitive cervical cap.
1839 -- Charles Goodyear invents the technology to vulcanize rubber. Along with tires, he puts it to use manufacturing rubber condoms, intrauterine devices, douching syringes and "womb veils."
1873 -- Congress passes the Comstock Act, banning access to information about abortion and birth control. At the time, the U.S. is the only Western nation to criminalize contraception.
1880s -- German scientist Dr. Wilhelm Mensinga invents a larger version of the cervical cap. His model will gain widespread popularity and come to be known as "the diaphragm."
1916 -- Margaret Sanger opens the first birth control clinic in the United States. Just days later, police raid the clinic and shut it down. Sanger serves 30 days in prison.
1920s -- Scientists working independently in Japan and Austria devise the "Rhythm Method" of birth control after figuring out that women are fertile approximately midway through the average menstrual cycle. They conclude pregnancy can be avoided by abstaining from sex during that period.
1938 -- A judge lifts the federal obscenity ban on birth control, although contraception remains illegal in most states.
1960 -- The FDA approves Enovid, the first birth control pill, although almost half a million American women had already been taking it for "therapeutic purposes." Within two years, more than 1 million women are on it.
1965 -- In Griswold vs. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state laws prohibiting contraception for married couples. An estimated 6.5 million American women are using birth control pills at that time.
1972 -- In 1972, the Supreme Court expands the right to possess and use contraceptives to unmarried couples in its Eisenstadt vs. Baird decision.
1992 -- Though it has already been used by more than 30 million women worldwide since 1969, the FDA approves Depo-Provera, the first hormone shot to prevent pregnancy for several months at a time.
1998 -- The FDA approves the first emergency contraceptive in the United States. Nicknamed "the morning-after pill," it can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
2000 to 2002 -- Four new birth control products enter the U.S. market. They are Ortho Evra, a birth-control patch; NuvaRing, a vaginally inserted ring; Lunelle, a hormone injection; and Mirena, an intrauterine device effective for five years.
2006 -- Implanon enters the U.S. market. Implanted in the skin of a woman's arm, it prevents pregnancy for up to three years.
2007 -- The FDA approves Lybrel, the first low-dose contraceptive pill that gives a woman the option to stop their menstrual cycle.
Today, of the estimated 62 million American women of childbearing age, 28 percent prevent pregnancy by taking birth control pills, according to Planned Parenthood. Twenty-seven percent have had their tubes tied, 16 percent use condoms, 10 percent rely on their partner's vasectomy and 5.5 percent use an IUD.