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Anthony Comstock (1844–1915)

Anthony Comstock was a US postal inspector and politician who advocated for the suppression of obscenity and vice throughout the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Comstock considered any sexually explicit material like pornography and literature related to birth control and abortion as obscene. In 1873, Comstock lobbied US Congress to pass an anti-obscenity law titled An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use, also called the Comstock Act.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

1901 Arizona Comstock Law

In 1901, the Arizona Territorial Legislature codified territorial law that illegalized advertising, causing, or performing abortions anywhere in Arizona. The 1901 code, in conjunction with the federal Comstock Act, regulated the advertisement and accessibility of abortion services and contraceptives in Arizona. The Federal Comstock Act of 1873 had illegalized the distribution of material on contraceptives and abortions through the US Postal Services by labeling contraceptive and abortive material as obscene.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

The Comstock Law (1873)

The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person's right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight over the reproductive rights of women which is still being waged. Reproductive rights are important to embryology because they lead to the discussions regarding the morality of abortion, contraceptives, and ultimately the moral status of the embryo.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

John Adams Comstock

Inscriptions on image: Front, top: autograph “John A. Comstock”

Format: Photographs

Subject: People

“Family Limitations” (1914), by Margaret Higgins Sanger

In 1914, Margaret Sanger published “Family Limitations,” a pamphlet describing six different types of contraceptive methods. At the time Sanger published the pamphlet, the federal Comstock Act of 1873 had made distributing contraceptive and abortion information through the US postal service illegal. The Comstock Act classified contraceptive information as obscene and limited the amount of information available to individuals about preventing pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

United States v. Dennett (1930)

In the 1930 US federal court case United States v. Dennett, Mary Coffin Ware Dennett was cleared of all charges of violating the anti-obscenity Comstock Act, a charge she had incurred by distributing her sex education pamphlet called The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People. The United States Postal Service charged Dennett under the Comstock Act, which prohibited the distribution of sex-related materials through the mail.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries (1936)

In the 1936 case United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City, New York, confirmed that physicians had the right to distribute contraceptives to patients for medical purposes. In January 1933, US Customs confiscated a package of contraceptives imported from Japan by US physician Hannah Stone.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

The Woman Rebel (1914)

In the early twentieth
century, birth control advocate Margaret Sanger published eight
issues of a feminist magazine called The Woman Rebel. During
this time, discussion of sex education, birth control, and
abortion were illegal. The magazine featured literary pieces on
topics like women’s rights, love and marriage, women in the
workplace, reproductive and sexual education, and contraception.
The Woman Rebel was one of the first magazines that discussed
issues that working class American women faced. Through the

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Higgins Sanger advocated for birth control in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although people used contraceptives prior to the twentieth century, in the US the 1873 Comstock Act made the distribution of information relating to the use of contraceptives illegal, and similar state-level Comstock laws also classified discussion and dissemination of contraceptives as illegal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Outreach

Where Are My Children? (1916)

Where Are My Children? is an anti-abortion silent film released in the United States on 16 April 1916. The film was directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley and produced by Universal Film Manufacturing Company/Lois Weber Productions in Universal City, California. In the film, Weber tells a story of an attorney who wants to have children and raise a family, but his wife chooses to abort her pregnancies, fearing that having children will ruin her social activities. In the early 1900s, information about contraception was not freely available or legal to obtain.

Format: Articles

Ann Trow (Madame Restell) (1812–1878)

Self-proclaimed female physician Ann Trow was a women’s reproductive health specialist as well as an abortion provider in New York City, New York during the mid 1800s. Though she had no formal medical training or background, Trow provided women with healthcare and abortions under the alias Madame Restell. Restell gained attention across the United States for her career as a professional abortionist during a time when abortions were highly regulated and punishable with imprisonment. Restell was tried numerous times for carrying out abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (1918)

In 1918, the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany broadened the justification physicians could use to prescribe contraceptives to married patients in the case The People of the State of New York v. Margaret H. Sanger (People v. Sanger). The presiding judge of People v. Sanger, Frederick Crane, ruled that under Section 1145 of the New York Penal Code physicians could provide contraceptives to married couples for the prevention of disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

What Every Girl Should Know (1916), by Margaret Sanger

What Every Girl Should Know was published in 1916 in New York City, New York, as a compilation of articles written by Margaret Sanger from 1912 to 1913. The original articles appeared in the newspaper New York Call, under the tile “What Every Girl Should Know.” The articles, which are organized into chapters and individual parts in the book, describe sex education, human reproduction, and sexually transmitted infections.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

What Every Mother Should Know (1914), by Margaret Sanger

What Every Mother Should Know was published in 1914 in New York City, New York, as a compilation of newspaper articles written by Margaret Sanger in 1911. The series of articles informed parents about how to teach their children about reproduction and it appeared in the newspaper New York Call. In 1911, the newspaper series was published as a book, with several subsequent editions appearing later. In What Every Mother Should Know, Sanger emphasizes starting education on reproduction early and honestly answering children’s questions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

George Linius Streeter (1873-1948)

George Linius Streeter was born on 12 January 1873 in Johnstown, New York, to Hannah Green Anthony and George Austin Streeter. He completed his undergraduate studies at Union College in 1895 and received his MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1899. At Columbia, Professor George S. Huntington sparked Streeter's interest in anatomy, and Streeter also interned at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He then went on to Albany to teach anatomy at the Albany Medical College and to work with neurologist Henry Hun.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Sex Side of Life (1919) by Mary Ware Dennett

Mary Ware Dennett, an activist in the US for birth control and sex education in the early twentieth century, wrote an educational pamphlet in 1915 called “The Sex Side of Life, and it was published in 1919. The pamphlet defined the functions of the sex organs, emphasized the role of love and pleasure in sex, and described other sexual processes of the body not usually discussed openly.

Format: Articles

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett (1872-1947)

Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control (1963), by John Rock

In 1963, Roman Catholic fertility doctor John Rock published The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control, a first-person treatise on the use of scientifically approved forms of birth control for Catholic couples. The first contraceptive pill, called Enovid, had been on the market since June 1960, and Rock was one of the leading researchers in its development. In The Time Has Come, Rock explicitly describes the arguments for and against the use of birth control from both a religious and a scientific perspective.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Religion, Reproduction

Clinica Para Madres (1934-1950)

The Clinica Para Madres (Mother’s Clinic) opened in Tucson, Arizona, in December of 1934 as the first birth control clinic in Arizona. After moving to Tucson, birth control activist Margaret Sanger, along with a group of local philanthropic women, founded the clinic to provide Arizona women with contraception. During the early 1900s in the US, contraception was illegal under the federal Comstock Act. Additionally, many viewed contraception and sex as obscene and not to be discussed in public or outside of marriage.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction, Outreach

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014)

In the 2014 case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the US Supreme Court ruled that the contraceptive mandate promulgated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violated privately held, for-profit corporations’ right to religious freedom. The contraception mandate, issued in 2012 by the US Department of Health and Human Services, required that employer-provided health insurance plans offer their beneficiaries certain contraceptive methods free of charge.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989)

In the 1989 case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the
US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Missouri law regulating abortion care. The
Missouri law prohibited the use of public facilities, employees, or
funds to provide abortion counseling or services. The law also placed restrictions on physicians who provided
abortions. A group of physicians affected by the law challenged the
constitutionality of certain sections of it. The US federal district
court that first heard the case ruled many of the challenged sections of

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966)

Margaret Higgins Sanger, a leader of the movement to decriminalize contraceptive use in the United States, was born on 14 September 1879 to Anne Purcell and Michael Hennessey Higgins in Corning, New York. Prior to her career as a birth control reformer, Sanger attended Claverack College and Hudson River Institute, though she never graduated. She was later trained as a nurse at White Plains Hospital. In 1902 she married William Sanger and the couple had two sons, Stuart and Grant, and a daughter, Peggy.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson (1950-1977)

Established in 1950, the Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson provided Arizona women with family planning resources until 1977, when it expanded to locations outside of Tucson and became Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona. The Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson was formed after the Clinica Para Madres, the first birth control clinic in Arizona, merged with the national organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction, Outreach

Simon Edward Fisher (1970-)

Simon Edward Fisher studied the genes that control speech and language in England and the Netherlands in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 2001, Fisher co-discovered the FOXP2 gene with Cecilia Lai, a gene related to language acquisition in humans and vocalization in other mammals. When damaged, the human version of the gene leads to language disorders that disrupt language and speech skills. Fisher's discovery validated the hypothesis that genes influence language, resulting in further investigations of language disorders and their heritability.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater (1909–1985)

Margaret Goldwater advocated for birth control and reproductive rights in the United States during the twentieth century. Goldwater was a socialite and philanthropist and was married to Barry Goldwater, US Senator from Arizona. She spent much of her life working to further the women's reproductive rights movement, which sought to expand women's legal, social, and physical access to reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Outreach

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