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Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act (1921)

In November 1921, US Congress passed the National Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, also called the Sheppard-Towner Act. The Act provided federal funds to states to establish programs to educate people about prenatal health and infant welfare. Advocates argued that it would curb the high infant mortality rate in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach

Title X Family Planning Program (1970–1977)

The Family Planning Services and Public Research Act of 1970, often called Title X Family Planning Program, is a US federal law that provides federal funding for family planning services to low income or uninsured families. The US federal government passed the law, Public Law 91-572, in 1970 as an amendment to the Public Health Services Act of 1944. The Act created the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) under the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (here called the Secretary).

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Legal

Annie Dodge Wauneka (1910-1997)

Annie Dodge Wauneka, a member of the Navajo Tribal Council in Window Rock, Arizona, from 1951 to 1978, advocated for improved lifestyle, disease prevention, and access to medical knowledge in the Navajo Indian Reservation, later renamed the Navajo Nation. Wauneka served as chair of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Navajo Tribal Council and as a member of the US Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Indian Health. Wauneka advocated for initiatives aimed at promoting education, preventing tuberculosis, and reducing the infant mortality rate.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (1994)

On 26 May 1994, US President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in to law, which federally criminalized acts of obstruction and violence towards reproductive health clinics. The law was a reaction to the increasing violence toward abortion clinics, providers, and patients during the 1990s. That violence included clinic blockades and protests, assaults on physicians and patients, and murders. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act established

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Leonard Colebrook (1883–1967)

Leonard Colebrook was a physician who researched bacteria and infections in England during the twentieth century. In 1936, Colebrook deployed the antibiotic Prontosil to treat puerperal fever, a disorder that results from bacterial infections in the uterine tracts of women after childbirth or abortions. Colebrook also advanced care for burn patients by advocating for the creation of burn units in hospitals and by using antisepsis medication for burn wound infections. Colebrook’s work on treatments for puerperal fever reduced cases of puerperal fever throughout the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Marie Stopes International

Marie Stopes International (MSI) is a not-for-profit organization based in the United Kingdom that promotes reproductive and sexual health. It grew from one small clinic, founded in North London in 1921, into an international provider of reproductive health care and information that operates in almost forty countries. The Mothers' Clinic, from which it grew, was created in the hopes of expanding couples' reproductive rights, and the modern organization continues to work toward the same goal today.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

Frank Rattray Lillie's Study of Freemartins (1914-1920)

Frank Rattray Lillie's research on freemartins from 1914 to 1920 in the US led to the theory that hormones partly caused for sex differentiation in mammals. Although sometimes applied to sheep, goats, and pigs, the term freemartin most often refers to a sterile cow that has external female genitalia and internal male gonads and was born with a normal male twin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Doe v. Bolton (1973)

In the 1973 court case Doe v. Bolton, the US Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that a Georgia law regulating abortion was unconstitutional. The Georgia abortion law required women seeking abortions to get approval for the procedure from their personal physician, two consulting physicians, and from a committee at the admitting hospital. Furthermore, under the statutes, only women who had been raped, whose lives were in danger from the pregnancy, or who were carrying fetuses likely to be seriously, permanently malformed were permitted to receive abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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

Evangelium Vitae (1995), by Pope John Paul II

The encyclical entitled "Evangelium Vitae," meaning "The Gospel of Life," was promulgated on 25 March 1995 by Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy. The document was written to reiterate the view of the Roman Catholic Church on the value of life and to warn against violating the sanctity of life. The document focuses on right to life issues including abortion, birth control, and euthanasia, but also touches on other concepts relevant to embryology, such as contraception, in vitro fertilization, sterilization, embryonic stem cell research, and fetal experimentation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Bernard Rimland (1928-2006)

Bernard Rimland studied autism in children in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. His early research in the 1950s and into the 1960s led him to assert that infantile autism was a neurodevelopmental disorder, or one that is caused by impairments in the growth and development of the brain or central nervous system. Rimland's assertion that infantile autism was a neurodevelopmental disorder contradicted another theory at that time that the condition resulted from emotionally cold parenting.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Humanae Vitae (1968), by Pope Paul VI

The "Humanae Vitae," meaning "Of Human Life" and subtitled "On the Regulation of Birth," was an encyclical promulgated in Rome, Italy, on 25 July 1968 by Pope Paul VI. This encyclical defended and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's stance on family planning and reproductive issues such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception. The document continues to have a controversial reputation today, as its statements regarding birth control strike many Catholics as unreasonable.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)

Pope Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, has been crucial to the clarification of Roman Catholic views on embryos and abortion in recent history. His 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae" spoke to the regulation of birth through various methods of contraception and sterilization. This encyclical, a result of Church hesitancy to initiate widespread discussion of the issue in a council of the Synod of Bishops, led to much controversy in the Church but established a firm Catholic position on the issues of birth control and family planning.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Isaacson v. Horne (2013)

In the 2013 case Isaacson v. Horne, the US Court of Appeals in the Ninth Circuit ruled that Arizona House Bill (HB) 2036, which prohibited abortions after twenty weeks of gestation, was unconstitutional. The Arizona State Legislature passed the law in 2012, which was then challenged by three physicians who filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the law violated women's constitutionally protected rights to abortions, rights that may only be infringed once fetuses are viable outside of the womb.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Betty Friedan (1921–2006)

Betty Friedan advocated for the advancement of women's rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In 1963, Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, which historians consider a major contribution to the feminist movement. Friedan also helped establish two organizations that advocated for women's right, the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1963 and, in 1969 the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NAARL). Friedan argued for legalizing access to abortion and contraception, and her advocacy helped advance women's reproductive rights.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Ponseti's Treatment for Congenital Clubfoot (1963)

In 1963, Ignacio Ponseti and Eugene Smoley experimentally determined an effective and minimally invasive method of treating congenital clubfoot. Congenital clubfoot is a disorder in which a newborn’s foot is rigidly turned inwards and upwards. During the early 1960s, orthopedists often relied on invasive surgical procedures to treat clubfoot.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Bellotti v. Baird (1979)

On 2 July 1979, the United States Supreme Court decided Bellotti v. Baird, ruling that a Massachusetts law that prohibited minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent was unconstitutional. That law prohibited minors from receiving abortions without permission from both of their parents or a superior court judge. Under that law, if one or both of the minor’s parents denied consent, the minor could petition a superior court judge who would determine whether the minor was competent enough to make the decision to abort on her own.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Arthur William Galston (1920–2008)

Arthur W. Galston studied plant hormones in the United States during the late-twentieth century. His dissertation on the flowering process of soybean plants led others to develop Agent Orange, the most widely employed herbicide during the Vietnam War, used to defoliate forests and eliminate enemy cover and food sources. Galston protested the spraying of those defoliants in Vietnam, as they could be harmful to humans, animals, and the environment.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey (2012)

In the 2012 case Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. David Lakey, a US appeals court ruled as constitutional a Texas law that required abortion providers in the state to show women receiving abortions the ultrasound images of their fetuses. The law also required providers to describe the sounds of the fetuses' nascent hearts. In doing so, the court set precedent that ultrasound readings are necessary medical information for pregnant women seeking abortions, increasing the wait-period for women seeking abortions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County (1962)

In the 1962 case Planned Parenthood Committee of Phoenix v. Maricopa County, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213, which banned the public advertising of contraceptive or abortion medication or services, was constitutional. However, the court also ruled that that Arizona Revised Statute 13-213 did not apply to Planned Parenthood's distribution of contraceptive information, allowing Planned Parenthood to continue distributing the information.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Organizations

Carol Downer (1933– )

Carol Downer was a reproductive health and abortion rights activist in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the US and other countries. During the late 1960s, many women reported knowing little about female anatomy and receiving little information from their physicians. Downer advocated for women’s reproductive anatomy education and encouraged women to not rely on the intervention of a medical doctor for all reproductive issues.

Format: Articles

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

Pope Pius XI, born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was born to the wealthy owner of a silk factory on 31 May 1857 in Desio, Italy. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of eighteen, at which time he began a long life devoted to study, peacekeeping, and the betterment of societies around the world. Pius XI is noted here for his contribution to the Roman Catholic Church's early twentieth century approach to issues regarding contraception and abortion, which was presented in his December 1930 encyclical "Casti Connubii."

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993)

In its 1993 decision Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the US Supreme Court established the Daubert Standard for evaluating the admissibility of scientific knowledge as evidence in US federal courts. When it began in trial court, the case addressed whether or not Bendectin, an anti-nausea medication taken during pregnancy, caused birth defects. However, after the trial court dismissed the case for lack of admissible evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

US Regulatory Response to Thalidomide (1950-2000)

Thalidomide, a drug capable of causing fetal abnormalities (teratogen), has caused greater than ten thousand birth defects worldwide since its introduction to the market as a pharmaceutical agent. Prior to discovering thalidomide's teratogenic effects in the early 1960s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not place regulations on drug approval or monitoring as it later did. By 1962, approximately 20,000 patients in the US had taken thalidomide as part of an unregulated clinical trial before any actions were taken to stop thalidomide's distribution.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal