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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.
Subject: Ethics, Legal, 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.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
James Young Simpson (1811–1870)
James Young Simpson was one of the first obstetricians to administer anesthesia during childbirth in nineteenth century Scotland. Before his work in the 1800s, physicians had few ways to reduce the pain of childbirth. Simpson experimented with the use of ether and chloroform, both gaseous chemicals, to temporarily relieve pain. He found that those chemicals both successfully inhibited the pain women felt during childbirth and pain during other surgeries. Patients under the influence of chloroform fell asleep and were unaware of the intense pain of childbirth.
"Effects of Social Support During Parturition on Maternal and Infant Morbidity” (1986), by Marshall Klaus, John Kennell, Steven Robertson, and Roberto Sosa
“Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care” (2013), by Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling
In 2013, Lois Uttley, Sheila Reynertson, Larraine Kenny, and Louise Melling published “Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care,” in which they analyzed the growth of Catholic hospitals in the United States from 2001 to 2011 and the impact those hospitals had on reproductive health care. In the US, Catholic hospitals are required to abide by the US Catholic Church's Ethical Guidelines for Health Care Providers, also called the Directives.
“Delayed Breastfeeding Initiation Increases Risk of Neonatal Mortality” (2006), by Karen Edmond Charles Zandoh, Maria Quigley, Seeba Amenga-Etego, Seth Oqusi-Agyei, and Betty Kirkwood
In March 2006, scientists from Ghana and the UK Karen Edmond, Charles Zandoh, Maria Quigley, Seeba Amenga-Etego, Seth Oqusi-Agyei, and Betty Kirkwood published their findings that early, consistent breastfeeding habits for mothers in Ghana resulted in better survival outcomes for their infants. The authors communicated those results in the paper “Delayed Breastfeeding Initiation Increases Risk of Neonatal Mortality,” or “Delayed Breastfeeding,” published in The American Academy of Pediatrics.
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
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.
Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, later Our Bodies Ourselves (1969–)
The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective was a women’s health organization headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, that published the informational book Our Bodies Ourselves, which sold over 4.5 million copies. Initially called the Doctor’s Group, the Collective formed in response to the insufficiency of women-specific health information during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Members of the organization participated in the women’s liberation movement in Boston, Massachusetts, and conducted research on women’s health using resources such as medical textbooks.
“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.
Subject: Reproduction, Publications
Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1972)
In 1972, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the case of Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, hereafter PARC v. Pennsylvania. The court ruled that the state could not deny an individual's right to equal access to education based on an intellectual or developmental disability status. PARC brought the case against the state of Pennsylvania on behalf of fourteen families with intellectually disabled children who were unable to access to public schools based on their child’s disability.
The Business of Being Born (2008)
In 2008, Barranca Productions released a documentary called The Business of Being Born, detailing the topic of childbirth. Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein produced and directed the documentary. The documentary explores pregnancy related healthcare in the US, including the history of midwives and obstetrics. The film also discusses potential consequences of medicalized childbirth common in the twenty-first century. The Business of Being Born provides viewers with information about home-births, midwives, and the positive and negative aspects of going to the hospital for childbirth.
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
Evelyn Lorraine Rothman (1932–2007)
Evelyn Lorraine Rothman advocated for women’s reproductive rights and invented at-home kits for women’s health concerns in the late twentieth century in Los Angeles, California. Rothman provided women in the Los Angeles area with the means to perform self-examinations, pregnancy tests, and abortions on their own without assistance from a medical professional. Along with Carol Downer, Rothman cofounded the Federation of Feminist Health Centers in Los Angeles, California, and spent her career educating women on reproductive health.
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson (1915–2006)
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson was a physician who advocated for abortion rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In November of 1970, Hodgson became the first physician in the U.S. to be convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson deliberately performed the abortion to challenge the Minnesota State Statute 617.18, which prohibited non-therapeutic abortions. Following the legalization of abortion in the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), Hodgson focused on promoting accessible abortion, obstetric, and gynecological care throughout Minnesota.
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.
Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969–1977)
The Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, hereafter Union or CWLU, was a feminist union that operated in Chicago, Illinois, from 1969 to 1977 and was the first and largest union, at the time of its operation, focused on women’s issues. The Union organized women with the self-proclaimed collective goal of achieving liberation from sexism and inequality. Within the larger CWLU, smaller groups and chapters formed to address issues such as abortion, rape, child care, and reproductive health, among others.
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.
Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013)
Henry Morgentaler was a physician who performed abortions, acted as a reproductive rights activist, and advocated for legal access to abortions in Canada during the twentieth century. In 1969, he opened his first abortion clinic in Canada and participated in the legal/court case of R v. Morgentaler (1988), which led Canada to decriminalize abortion. Morgentaler helped establish legal access to abortions for women in Canada and advocated for the protection of women's reproductive choices under the law.
The Fruits of Philosophy (1832), by Charles Knowlton
In 1832, Charles Knowlton published The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet advocating for controlling reproduction and detailing methods for preventing pregnancy. Originally published anonymously in Massachusetts, The Fruits of Philosophy was an illegal book because United States law prohibited the publishing of immoral and obscene material, which included information about contraception. In The Fruits of Philosophy, Knowlton detailed recipes for contraceptives and advocated for controlling reproduction.
Bernadine Healy (1944–2011)
During the twentieth century in the United States, Bernadine Patricia Healy was a cardiologist who served as the first female director of the National Institutes of Health or NIH and the president of both the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. Healy conducted research on the different manifestations of heart attacks in women compared to men. At the time, many physicians underdiagnosed and mistreated coronary heart disease in women. Healy's research illustrated how coronary heart disease affected women.
“Kangaroo Care Is Effective in Diminishing Pain Response in Preterm Neonates” (2003), by Celeste Johnston, Bonnie Stevens, Janet Pinelli, Sharyn Gibbins, Francoise Filion, Anne Jack, Susan Steele, Kristina Boyer, and Annie Veilleux
In the 2003 article “Kangaroo Care Is Effective in Diminishing Pain Response in Preterm Neonates”, Celeste Johnston, Bonnie Stevens, Janet Pinelli, and their colleagues evaluate the effectiveness of the Kangaroo Mother Care position in decreasing the pain response of preterm infants who undergo a heel lance procedure for blood collection. Kangaroo Mother Care is a method of treatment for premature and low birth weight infants that involves exclusive breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her infant in what is called the kangaroo position.
Simone Mary Campbell (1945–)
Simone Campbell is a Roman Catholic sister, attorney, and poet who advocated for social justice, especially equal access to healthcare in the US in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Campbell worked as a lawyer and served the working poor in California. As of 2018, she works for NETWORK, a lobbying group in Washington DC that focuses on broadening access to healthcare by lowering costs.
Barbara Seaman (1935–2008)
Barbara Seaman was a writer, investigator, and advocate for female healthcare rights during the twentieth century in the United States. Seaman’s work addressed the gendered prejudice she observed in the US healthcare system and argued that women of the 1960s lacked the proper tools to make informed decisions about pregnancy care, breastfeeding, childbirth, and contraception. Seaman wrote the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill in 1969 to expose the dangers in prescribing and consuming high doses of estrogen in the form of birth control.
Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (2007)
Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood) was the 2007 US Supreme Court case in which the Court declared the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 constitutional, making partial birth abortions illegal. In 2003, the US Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which prohibited an abortion technique called partial birth abortion. A partial birth abortion is similar to, but not the same as, a Dilation and Extraction or D&X abortion, which is what the Ban was intended to prohibit. Gonzales v.