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What Does Warren Buffett Have To Do With IUDs? Well, Everything11:10Download

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Warren Buffett arrives with his wife Susan at the White House for a state dinner in honor of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie in 1998. (Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images)MoreCloseclosemore
Warren Buffett arrives with his wife Susan at the White House for a state dinner in honor of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie in 1998. (Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images)

It's no secret that in the 1970s the intrauterine device (or IUD) fell out of favor in the United States. The most common one was called the Dalkon Shield and it was eventually found to cause complications ranging from infection, to ectopic pregnancy, to death.

Decades later, as safer IUDs were becoming popular in Europe and abroad, the American medical community and pharmaceutical companies were loathe to touch the devices. But that was about to change.

First, an anonymous donor funded a multi-year study in St. Louis, finding that when given the choice, 75 percent of women chose IUDs or IUDs and hormonal implants. Further, the study revealed that IUDs had over a 99 percent effectiveness rate — in addition to being extremely safe. That study was written up in 50 medical journals, and was also used to promote extensive initiatives in Colorado and Iowa, where an anonymous donor funded low cost IUDs, as well as training programs for medical professionals on IUD use and counseling. In Colorado, the results showed the teen birth rate dropping by 40 percent. Finally, with the evidence of the IUD's safety and effectiveness indisputable, the anonymous donor funded the development of a new, low-cost IUD known as Liletta.

Well, it turns out that the anonymous donor, in every case, was the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation — a philanthropic organization funded by its founder billionaire Warren Buffett.

Karen Weise uncovered the connection between Buffett and the IUD and writes about it in her article "Warren Buffett's Family Secretly Funded a Birth Control Revolution," in Bloomberg Businessweek.

She joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss the connection.

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This segment aired on August 4, 2015.

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