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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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Thesis: From Fertilization to Birth: Representing Development in High School Biology Textbooks

Biology textbooks are everybody's business. In accepting the view that texts are created with specific social goals in mind, I examined 127 twentieth-century high school biology textbooks for representations of animal development. Paragraphs and visual representations were coded and placed in one of four scientific literacy categories, including descriptive, investigative, nature of science, and HETS, or human embryos, technology, and society. I then interpreted how embryos and fetuses have been socially constructed for students.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

“The Intergenerational Effects of Fetal Programming: Non-genomic Mechanisms for the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight and Cardiovascular Risk” (2004), by Amanda J. Drake and Brian R. Walker

In 2004, Amanda J. Drake and Brian R. Walker published “The Intergenerational Effects of Fetal Programming: Non-genomic Mechanisms for the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight and Cardiovascular Risk,” hereafter, “The Intergenerational Effects,” in the Journal of Endocrinology. In their article, the authors assert that cardiovascular disease may develop via fetal programming, which is when a certain event occurring during a critical point of pregnancy affects the fetus long after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Reproduction

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive first introduced by Howard Tatum and Jamie Zipper in 1967. Health care providers place an IUD inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Copper IUDs are typically made of T-shaped plastic with some portion covered with exposed copper. Prior to the invention of the first IUDs, women had few long-term options for safe and reliable birth control. Those options mostly consisted of barrier methods and the oral birth control pill, which were only effective if used correctly and consistently.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

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

Subject: Publications

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring (1936), by William J. Robinson

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring was written by American eugenics and birth control advocate William J. Robinson. First published in 1916, the final edition (forty-eighth) was published in 1936, the same year that Robinson died. As a medical doctor and author, Robinson used his influence to promote propaganda for "fewer and better babies," by focusing on contraception. Even Margaret Sanger, another prominent eugenics and birth control advocate, took great interest in this book. Robinson had three goals in mind when writing Birth Control.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Enovid: The First Hormonal Birth Control Pill

Enovid was the first hormonal birth control pill. G. D. Searle and Company began marketing Enovid as a contraceptive in 1960. The technology was created by the joint efforts of many individuals and organizations, including Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, John Rock, Syntex, S.A. Laboratories, and G.D. Searle and Company Laboratories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

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.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“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

"Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health" (1988), by the US Centers for Disease Control

In 1988, the US Centers for Disease Control published 'Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health,' which summarized part of the results of the Vietnam Experience Study commissioned by US Congress to assess the health of US Vietnam veterans. They published the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most heavily used herbicide in the Vietnam, Agent Orange, had previously been found to contain a contaminant linked to birth defects in rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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

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

Agent Orange Birth Defects

Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is an open neural tube defect, meaning that part of the neural tube does not properly close or that it has reopened during early embryogenesis. An embryo with anencephaly develops without the top of the skull, but retains a partial skull, including the face. Anencephaly is one of the most common birth defects of the neural tube, occurring at a rate of approximately one in one thousand human pregnancies. The condition can be caused by environmental exposure to chemicals, dietary deficiencies, or genetic mutations.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657)

Fortunio Liceti studied natural philosophy and medicine in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Liceti wrote greater than seventy works on a wide range of topics, including the human soul, reproduction, and birth defects observed in animals and human infants. In the seventeenth century, people commonly addressed birth defects using superstition and considered them as signs of evil, possibly caused by spiritual or supernatural entities. Liceti described infants with birth defects as prodigies and monsters to be admired and studied rather than feared.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Mothers' Clinic

The Mothers' Clinic for Constructive Birth Control was established on 17 March 1921. The first family planning clinic ever established in Great Britain, it was co-founded by Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes and her husband Humphrey Verdon Roe at Number 61, Marlborough Road in Holloway, North London. The Mothers' Clinic was one of the highlights of Stopes's extensive career as a proponent of available birth control and women's sexual equality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

“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.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects" (1984), by J. David Erickson et al.

In 1984, J. David Erickson and his research team published the results of a study titled 'Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects' that indicated that Vietnam veterans were at increased risk of fathering infants with serious congenital malformations, or birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Corticosteroids' Effect on Fetal Lung Maturation (1972), by Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie

In a clinical trial from 1969 to 1972, Sir Graham Collingwood Liggins and Ross Howie showed that if doctors treat pregnant women with corticosteroids before those women deliver prematurely, then those women's infants have fewer cases of respiratory distress syndrome than do similarly premature infants of women not treated with corticosteroids. Prior to the study, premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation often died of respiratory distress syndrome, or the inability to inflate immature lungs.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen

Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Disorders

Emma Goldman (1869–1940)

Emma Goldman was a traveling public speaker and writer known for her anarchist political views as well as her opinions on contraception and birth limiting in the late nineteenth century in the United States. Goldman identified as an anarchist, which she explained as being part of an ideology in which people use violence to provoke or demand social and political change. Goldman was involved in many anarchist social groups and published the anarchist magazine Mother Earth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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