It was 1967, when abortions were generally illegal and 26 states barred single women from obtaining birth control. Few laws protected “girls” in the workplace from gender discrimination, and employers had the right to lay off women who became pregnant. At-home pregnancy tests were unheard of up until this point, but Margaret Crane, a 26-year-old product designer at Organon Pharmaceuticals saw what at-home tests could mean – “It was a way for a woman to peer into her own body and to make her own decisions about it, without anyone else — husband, boyfriend, boss, doctor — getting in the way.” Ms. Crane built her own prototype and brought it in to her managers for consideration; they all said no.
The top two reasons why an at-home pregnancy test disturbed them so much? The company was worried about their market which was doctors, believing doctors would hate the product; they were also terrified that a woman may harm herself if she were unmarried and found out she was pregnant. Thus the test did not become available in the United States until 1977. This New York Times article that recently appeared in the Opinion Section provides this history, and also presents Ms. Margaret Crane’s story, which offers an insight into social and political forces that can keep medical tools – even trusted and easy ones – out of the hands of patients.