Play tells of experiments on Puerto Rican women, tied to Planned Parenthood founder

A new play delves into how women in Puerto Rico were affected by unethical birth control trials during the 1950s.

Las Borinqueñas, which means “The Puerto Rican Women,” shines a light on the women involved, who have largely been ignored by history. It was written by Nelson Diaz-Marcano, a Puerto Rican playwright, and is currently playing at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City.

While panel discussions hosted at the theatre about the play appear to promote “reproductive justice” (abortion), the true history behind the play exposes the eugenic mindset of the founder of the largest abortion business in the United States.

In the play, five characters — Chavela, Yolanda, Fernanda, Maria, and Rosa — are affected in different ways as they go through the birth control pill testing. Though each character signed up voluntarily, and was excited about the possibility of being able to control their fertility, the side effects quickly begin to affect them. Only one character, Rosa, does not take the pill, and is suspicious from the start; she was sterilized after giving birth when a doctor suggested it to her. She was never told the sterilization was permanent and irreversible, however, and has a breakdown when she realizes she will never have another baby.

Rosa’s experience was all too real; nearly one-fifth of women in Puerto Rico had been sterilized by 1953 in a eugenics-based program. By 1956, that number rose to one in three women. The women who were victims of this scheme were often never told it was a permanent procedure.

In the play, the women experience various side effects, although they are brushed off as just inconveniences — and three women die. In real life, 800 women enrolled in the study, but only 130 chose to continue taking the birth control pill for more than a year, due to the seriousness of the side effects.

In a Facebook post about the play, the theatre writes, “It’s the 1950s in Puerto Rico and the borinqueñas are fighting to live full lives in a changing country. This is the story of the birth control pill and the women who risked everything for the chance to live free.”

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was directly involved in the scheme to use Puerto Rican women as human guinea pigs.

READ: Not just Planned Parenthood: A look at NARAL’s racist, eugenicist founders

She worked with Gregory Pincus to create the birth control pill; the two of them both thought Puerto Rico was an ideal place to test the pill once it had been developed. Puerto Rico was in the midst of a population boom, and many of the people there lived in poverty. Both were things Sanger detested; she was a noted racist and eugenicist. She included Lothrap Stoddard, the Exalted Cyclops of the Massachusetts chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, as a board member for her organization, and also teamed up with fellow eugenicist Clarence Gamble (heir of the Procter and Gamble company fortune). Sanger believed that “undesirables” — minorities, the poor, the disabled, and the mentally ill — were “human weeds” who shouldn’t be allowed to “breed.”

Before experimenting on Puerto Rican women, Pincus tested the birth control pill on mentally ill women at the Worcester State Hospital. After giving them the pill, he sliced into their uteruses to see how it had affected them. This was illegal in the state of Massachusetts at the time, but that didn’t stop Pincus. As Gabriela Soto Laveaga, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, commented, “The regulations were more lax, but also you had this belief that some people could be experimented on: the ‘feeble-minded,’ people of color, the poor.”

Pincus and Sanger experimented on the “feeble-minded” first, and then moved on to poor women of color. And as Erin Blakemore pointed out for, “Women who took the drug knew that it prevented pregnancy, but had no idea it was experimental or even that they were participating in a clinical trial. They weren’t given safety information about the product, either… and women experienced serious side effects like blood clots and nausea.”

Women who did come forward to disclose the side effects they experienced were branded as “unreliable.”

Now, decades later, that disturbing history is all but forgotten, with birth control still heralded as one of the best advancements in medicine for women – and the side effects women experience are still belittled, ignored, and downplayed. And today, Planned Parenthood continues to carry out the vision of its founder by ensuring that poor and disadvantaged women, especially, continue to utilize its ‘services.’

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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