Filter by Topic
- People (106) Apply People filter
- Legal (94) Apply Legal filter
- Reproduction (81) Apply Reproduction filter
- Publications (68) Apply Publications filter
- Organizations (30) Apply Organizations filter
- Disorders (28) Apply Disorders filter
- Ethics (28) Apply Ethics filter
- Processes (28) Apply Processes filter
- Experiments (22) Apply Experiments filter
- Technologies (22) Apply Technologies filter
- Theories (22) Apply Theories filter
- Outreach (21) Apply Outreach filter
- Religion (10) Apply Religion filter
- Reproductive Health Arizona (10) Apply Reproductive Health Arizona filter
- RHAZ (4) Apply RHAZ filter
- Organisms (2) Apply Organisms filter
- Places (1) Apply Places filter
- Publication (1) Apply Publication filter
Thesis: Dismantling Legal Constraints to Contraception in the 1900s
In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.
Format: Essays and Theses
Subject: People, Legal, Reproduction
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.
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.
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.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
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.
Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)
In 1990, the United States Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by employers, governments, or public accommodations. Following gains made during the civil rights movements of the 1900s, people with disabilities sought similar anti-discrimination legislation. The ADA was the culmination of decades of protest and advocacy from the disability rights movement. After the ADA, federal law protected people with an impairment that limited major life functions like sight or mobility from discrimination.
Subject: Disorders, Organizations, Legal
Adolescent Family Life Act (1981)
The 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, is a US federal law that provides federal funding to public and nonprofit private organizations to counsel adolescents to abstain from sex until marriage. AFLA was included under the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, which the US Congress signed into law that same year. Through the AFLA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, funded a variety of sex education programs for adolescents to address the social and economic ramifications associated with pregnancy and childbirth among unmarried adolescents.
Subject: Legal, Outreach, Ethics, Reproduction
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975)
In 1975, the United States Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, referred to as the IDEA, which codified the right of all American children to a free and appropriate public education regardless of disability status. The IDEA requires all public schools that accept federal funds to provide education that meets the needs of students with disabilities at the public expense. Prior to IDEA, many students with disabilities went without any educational opportunities, and many faced confinement in institutions.
“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.
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
Woman’s Right to Know Act in Texas (2003)
In 2003, the Texas state legislature passed the Woman’s Right to Know Act, hereafter the Act, as Chapter 171 of the state’s Health and Safety Code. The Act sets requirements that physicians must follow during the informed consent process for abortion, or a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, in Texas. Lawmakers amended the Act and added several additional regulations that restrict access to abortion in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017.
Woman’s Right to Know Act in North Carolina (2011)
The North Carolina state legislature passed The Woman’s Right to Know Act in 2011, which places several restrictions on abortion care in the state. The Woman’s Right to Know Act, or the Act, imposes informed consent requirements that physicians must fulfill before performing an abortion as well as a twenty-four hour waiting period between counseling and the procedure for people seeking abortion, with exceptions for cases of medical emergency.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
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.
Subject: People, Reproductive Health Arizona, Reproduction, Outreach
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.
First American Birth Control Clinic (The Brownsville Clinic), 1916
On 16 October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened one of the first birth control clinics in the United States in Brooklyn, New York, which some have called the Brownsville Clinic. Located at 46 Amboy Street, the clinic was a place where Sanger and her staff verbally communicated with women seeking information about birth control. During the early 1900s, both birth control and abortion were illegal in the US, and publication or circulation of information on both topics was deemed obscene and illegal by the federal Comstock Act.
Women’s Right to Know Act (2019) by Americans United for Life
In 2019, Americans United for Life, hereafter AUL, published a model legislation, called the Women’s Right to Know Act, in their annual publication Defending Life. The goal of the model legislation, which AUL annually updates, is to help state governments enact enhanced informed consent laws for abortion. The Women’s Right to Know Act requires physicians to provide specific information to women before they may consent to having an abortion.
Subject: Legal, Publications, Reproduction
“Improving Women’s Health”: Section 3509 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010
In 2010, US Congress enacted section 3509 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA, to target issues relating to women’s health. The ACA, signed into law by US President Barack Obama, aimed to increase people’s access to high-quality healthcare in the United States.
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.
Title 1, Subtitle B, Parts I, II, and III of the “National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act of 1993” (1993)
In 1993, the NIH published the Revitalization Act that established guidelines for minorities’ and women’s participation in clinical research. Before the 1990s, investigators largely excluded women from their research based on the 1979 guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. The FDA urged investigators to exclude any woman who was or could become, pregnant to protect the woman and any developing fetuses from harm.
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.
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.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Embryology Course Photograph 1972
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.
Subject: Organizations, Reproduction, Outreach
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.
John Adams Comstock