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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

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

Progestin: Synthetic Progesterone

Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle. During the 1950s two types of progestin that were later used in birth control pills were created, norethindrone and norethynodrel. In 1951 Carl Djerassi developed norethindrone at Syntex, S.A. laboratories located in Mexico City, receiving a patent on 1 May 1956. In 1953 Frank Colton developed norethynodrel at G.D. Searle and Company laboratories located in Chicago, receiving a patent on 29 November 1955.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Horatio Robinson Storer (1830–1922)

Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Religion

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880-1958)

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 15 October 1880 to Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, a suffragist, and Henry Stopes, an archaeologist and anthropologist. A paleobotanist best known for her social activism in the area of sexuality, Stopes was a pioneer in the fight to gain sexual equality for women. Her activism took many forms including writing books and pamphlets, giving public appearances, serving on panels, and, most famously, co-founding the first birth control clinic in the United Kingdom.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

United States v. University Hospital (1984)

The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' 1984 decision United States v. University Hospital, State University Hospital of New York at Stony Brook set a significant precedent for affirming parental privilege to make medical decisions for handicapped newborns, while limiting the ability of the federal government to intervene. The ruling stemmed from the 1983 case involving an infant born with severe physical and mental congenital defects; the infant was only identified as Baby Jane Doe.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

The Baby Doe Rules (1984)

The Baby Doe Rules represent the first attempt by the US government to directly intervene in treatment options for neonates born with congenital defects. The name of the rule comes from the controversial 1982 case of a Bloomington, Indiana infant Baby Doe, a name coined by the media. The Baby Doe Rules mandate that, as a requirement for federal funding, hospitals and physicians must provide maximal care to any impaired infant, unless select exceptions are met. If a physician or parent chooses to withhold full treatment when the exceptions are not met, they are liable for medical neglect.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, 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

“Beyond Menstrual Hygiene: Addressing Vaginal Bleeding Throughout the Life Course in LMICs” (2017), by Marni Sommer, Penelope A. Phillips-Howard, Therese Mahon, Sasha Zients, Meredith Jones, and Bethany A. Caruso

In “Beyond Menstrual Hygiene: Addressing Vaginal Bleeding Throughout the Life Course in LMICs,” hereafter “Beyond Menstrual Hygiene,” Marni Sommer, Penelope A. Phillips-Howard, Therese Mahon, Sasha Zients, Meredith Jones, and Bethany A. Caruso explored the barriers women experience in managing menstruation and other forms of vaginal bleeding in low and middle-income countries, which the researchers abbreviate to LMICs. The medical journal British Medical Journal Global Health published the article on 27 July 2017.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

Edwin Carlyle (Carl) Wood (1929–2011)

Edwin Carlyle Wood, also known as Carl Wood, was a physician who helped develop in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. From 1964 to 1992, Wood worked as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was one of the first in the world to lead a team of physicians to establish IVF as a proven treatment for infertility. IVF refers to a medical procedure in which scientists inseminate an egg cell with a sperm cell outside of the body, such as in a glass dish in a clinical setting.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Technologies, Reproduction

The Silent Scream (1984), by Bernard Nathanson, Crusade for Life, and American Portrait Films

The Silent Scream is an anti-abortion film released in 1984 by American Portrait Films, then based in Brunswick, Ohio. The film was created and narrated by Bernard Nathanson, an obstetrician and gynecologist from New York, and it was produced by Crusade for Life, an evangelical anti-abortion organization. In the video, Nathanson narrates ultrasound footage of an abortion of a twelve-week-old fetus, claiming that the fetus opened its mouth in what Nathanson calls a silent scream during the procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

National Embryo Donation Center

The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2002 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The organization is endorsed and supported by several Christian-based associations such as the Christian Medical Association, Bethany Christian Services, and Baptist Health Systems. Its goal is to provide embryo donation and embryo adoption services in order to utilize the large number of embryos that are being cryopreserved as a result of infertility procedures and are no longer needed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

China's One-Child Policy

In September 1979, China's Fifth National People's Congress passed a policy that encouraged one-child families. Following this decision from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), campaigns were initiated to implement the One-Child Policy nationwide. This initiative constituted the most massive governmental attempt to control human fertility and reproduction in human history. These campaigns prioritized reproductive technologies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization in gynecological and obstetric medicine, while downplaying technologies related to fertility treatment.

Format: Articles

Subject: Ethics, Legal, Reproduction

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (1974- )

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a nonprofit organization that began in 1974 as a joint endeavor by Reginald and Catherine Hamlin and the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia promotes reproductive health in Ethiopia by raising awareness and implementing treatment and preventive services for women affected by obstetric fistulas. It also aims to restore the lives of women afflicted with obstetric fistulas in Ethiopia and eventually to eradicate the condition.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction, Outreach

The Doula Project (2007– )

The Doula Project, cofounded in 2007 as The Abortion Doula Project by Mary Mahoney, Lauren Mitchell, and Miriam Zoila Perez, is a nonprofit organization of full-spectrum doulas based in New York City, New York, and is one of the first organizations to provide free full-spectrum doula care to pregnant people. Full-spectrum doulas provide non-medical physical, emotional, and informational support to pregnant people through a wide range of pregnancy experiences, including birth, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anomalies, and abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Ethics, Reproduction

Davis v. Davis [Brief] (1992)

This case was the first of its kind to address questions of personhood in the context of in vitro fertilization of a human embryo. It laid a foundation for future cases to work from: specifically, this case established the importance of prior written agreements for disposition of frozen embryos. This was also the first court decision to borrow the word "pre-embryo" from bioethics to describe the in vitro embryo. This terminology has been copied by many states.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

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

Nightlight Christian Adoptions, et al. v. Thompson, et al. (2001)

Nightlight Christian Adoptions et al. v. Thompson et al. was a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 8 March 2001. The suit was filed because Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a frozen embryo adoption agency, felt that the Guidelines for Research Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cells published by the National Institutes for Health were unlawful and violated the restrictions on human embryo research put into place by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Additional plaintiffs with this suit were the Christian Medical Association, adult stem cell researcher Dr.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Vaginal Speculum (after 1800)

A vaginal speculum is a medical device that allows physicians and health providers to better view a woman’s cervix and vagina during pelvic exams. Most specula are made of metal and plastic, and physicians insert a portion of the speculum into the patient’s vagina to separate the vaginal walls. Physicians have used devices to view inside a woman’s vagina for centuries, but physicians did not begin using what is known as a speculum in the twenty-first century until the 1800s.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

“Elective Induction of Labor” (1955), by Edward Bishop

In 1955, obstetrician Edward Bishop, a physician specializing in childbirth, published the article “Elective Induction of Labor,” in which he proposed the best conditions for pregnant women to elect to induce, or begin, labor. Elective induction of labor requires an obstetrician to administer a drug to help a pregnant woman to start her contractions, and to rupture the fluid-filled sac surrounding the fetus called the amniotic sac.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

“Spiritual Midwifery” (2003), by Ina May Gaskin

In 1976, midwife Ina May Gaskin published Spiritual Midwifery, with other editions published in 1980, 1990, and 2003. Spiritual Midwifery is a book about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, or the time period after birth. During the 1970s, it was common for women to receive an epidural, a medication that reduces pain during labor, and for physicians to monitor a fetus’s heartbeat while separating women from their infants after birth. However, according to Gaskin, some women wanted to give birth outside of the hospital without medical interventions.

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome)

As of 2022, Trisomy 21 is the most common type of trisomy, or a condition where the person has three instead of the normal two copies of one of the chromosomes. Trisomy occurs when abnormal cell division takes place leading to an extra copy of a chromosome. That extra copy of chromosome 21 results in a congenital disorder called Down syndrome, which is characterized by a cluster of specific traits including intellectual disabilities, atypical facial appearance, and a high risk of heart disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders, Ethics

World Health Organization Guidelines (Option A, B, and B+) for Antiretroviral Drugs to Treat Pregnant Women and Prevent HIV Infection in Infants

To address the international Human Immunodeficiency Virus epidemic, the World Health Organization, or WHO, developed three drug treatment regimens between 2010 and 2012 specifically for HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants. WHO developed the regimens, calling them Option A, Option B, and Option B+, to reduce or prevent mother-to-child, abbreviated MTC, transmission of HIV. Each option comprises of different types and schedules of antiretroviral medications. As of 2018, WHO reported that in Africa alone about 1,200,000 pregnant women were living with untreated HIV.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Processes, Disorders

Sergio Cereceda Stone (1942- )

Sergio Cereceda Stone was born 16 April 1942 in the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile. Stone's mother Luz was a housewife and caretaker for Sergio and his younger brother Lionel; his father Sergio served among the country's twenty appellate court judges. In the early 1950s Stone's father relocated the family to Santiago to further his law career.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC)

Established under the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Act of 2004, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC), also known as the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, was created in 2006 to oversee research related to reproductive technologies and to protect the reproductive rights and interests of Canadian citizens. AHRC serves as a regulatory body for the development and use of such research and technology while enforcing the guidelines and restrictions laid out by the AHR Act.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction